California Cooperative Snow Survey results are in for the month of April. After a few years of reporting not so great numbers, this time it is different. The Kern River Basin is sitting at 326% of normal! All the atmospheric rivers deposited a lot of moist snow into the southern Sierra Nevada. Although having this much snow is wonderful and needed across the landscape, what does that mean for fellow adventurers into the wilderness this season?
When hiking out into the wilderness this summer, assuming normal average temperatures, one may see snow “hanging around” longer than normal. As such the creeks and rivers could be flowing faster, higher, and for longer durations into the summer months. Though this may be great for having an increase in water sources, exercise caution when crossing. Additionally, besides the creeks taking longer to return to normal summer flows access to these areas may take longer.
More snow means it can take longer to melt. The longer it takes to melt could mean access to your higher elevation trailheads will extend further into the summer. For example, some roads typically open Memorial Day weekend (end of May). If all this snow melts at its normal rate, access may not happen to June and possibly early July!
You’ll want to keep all this in mind when planning your summer trip(s) into the mountains. Also, keep tabs on the road closures and openings too! Regardless it is great to have more snow and therefore water. After years of being dry and wildfires, the vegetation could use some rest and moist restoration.
If you haven’t guess where the video last week was taken, well here is the full version. It is a very popular place to go fly fishing on the Kern River in the GTW. Who’s ready to get outdoors again!?
PS – Did you know the Kern Lakes along the Kern River didn’t form until 1858\1859? A gentlemen was out there before and after the mega flooding event took place. A landslide/mudslide plugged up the Kern River for a few days and then breached itself right near where this video was taken. More can be read about this flooding event in the USGS 1905 publication as well as John Austin’s book HERE.
March has been a very interesting time in California’s history for snow surveys. As many of you may be aware of, and are living through, the amount of rain and snow in the Sierra Nevada is incredible. The atmospheric river is so profound that the State was not able to survey many of the sites within the Kern River drainage. However, what was surveyed gives everyone a light snapshot of just how much snow is on the mountain. As of March 1, there is 183% of normal snow. That is incredible and really needed for years of drought! This is not the whole story though.
The other part of this story is the atmospheric river. It has brought warmer rains on a heavy snow pack. When warm rain mixes with snow, you get a “rain on snow” event that can cause major damage and flooding. Simply do a search for “flooding California 2023” and you will see what the news and folks are talking about who live there. One example can be found at CNN. This is not a new phenomenon for California though. If you want to know more, I encourage you to read more about hundreds of years of drought and flooding in the golden state via John Austin’s book “Floods and Droughts in the Tulare Lake Basin.” It is a FREE PDF or if you want to support his work, you can buy it from Amazon (small percentage of sale goes back to GTW). Anyway, April is going to be an interesting survey month.
The warmer rain on snow events happening in March have filled up a lot of reservoirs. However, how much snow is left in the mountains as a result? We won’t know for a few more days but it will be interesting to see what happens. Stay tuned!
Another season to get outdoors is upon us. In wake of the 2020 COVID pandemic, there may be even more people wanting to travel and get away this summer. The idea of taking a child outdoors may be daunting for some. Fear not as there is plenty of advice out there to get outdoors for a day or several overnight hikes. One of those sources I found helpful, and think you will to, is from a mother who shares all the details of backpacking with kids. Check out the site below.
I hope you find it very helpful in getting outside with your kids. Do you have any other sources you found helpful or tips to share from experience? Please share them in the comments so others can glean from your experience!
The snow survey results are mostly in for the Kern River Basin. It is possible the USFS and NPS will not get these results in by the closing window of April 3. If that data comes in, I don’t see it changing too significantly. However, if it does I’ll update the report. Now back to snow survey results!
Unfortunately it is going to be another hard year for the wilderness. The snow pack for the Kern River sits at 34% of normal. Temperatures continue to warm in the valleys below, which means continual snow melt on the mountains above. Assuming these conditions remain the same throughout the rest of the year, you’ll need to plan accordingly for drier and hotter weather. This means perennial flows and springs will be key spots to refill on water. Earlier season will help out but as we get to mid to late season, that’s where it is likely to become exceptionally dry. Water will be down to minimal levels. Maybe, on the positive side, the insect season will be shorter? Time will tell.
The Sequoia National Forest just released a news update regarding closures and openings of several recreation areas. As for the Golden Trout Wilderness, the west side will have a road closure due to hazards from past wildfires. The North Road will be closed this season to public use.
The North Road (21S50) will be closed this season to allow hazard tree cleanup and road maintenance, including trailheads at Lewis Camp, Clicks Creek, and Summit. Those traveling into the Golden Trout Wilderness should route their trip through Forest trailheads at Jerkey Meadow, Forks of the Kern, or Blackrock. Shake Camp Trailhead may also be available at Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest. Wilderness permits can be obtained from the Forest website listed above under the “Visit Us” tab. Permits will be issued virtually or in-person where available. Trails leading into the Golden Trout Wilderness should be open by early June.
This will effectively close off access to the Summit, Clicks Creek 1 and 2, and Lewis Creek Trailheads for 2022. Users will need to use the Long Meadow Trail in Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest to get to the popular Maggie Lakes area. In order to get into the Little Kern River area, access via the Jerkey Meadow and Forks of the Kern Trails will be available. No word yet of a closure over Farewell Gap, so it is assume that will be the other way through the National Park.
Sorry for the late posting as we are about to get into April. However, I feel it is important to let you know what we had in March before posting April. For starters, you can see just how much has changed that way. Let’s begin!
March 1 have been completed for the Kern River Basin. The Kern River basin is at 44% of normal for March 1! It is looking to be a very dry summer season again. Before to much “doom and gloom,” let’s wait to see what April 1 surveys report for the Kern River Basin.
Snow surveys begin in California near the end of December and last until May. Sometimes, on exceptional years, additional surveys will be done for the month of June. Well the December surveys are in for a few basins within the Sierra Nevada. The primary regions are related to the Sacramento and San Joaquin River systems. The large amount of rain/snow we received over the last several days is well needed in the persistent drought plaguing California. As of this posting, the snow pack is sitting at 45% of normal for the January 1 survey. If there are no more storms to bring snow, the state will be sitting at 17% of normal for the important April 1 survey. Examining the data shows a few peeks into where these systems are “dumping” the snow.
The snow data is updated monthly at the California Data Exchange Center. Looking at the January 1 survey, most of moisture coming down as snow was in the Sacramento region (74% to 97% of normal). The San Joaquin River system is bringing the state average down due to it’s 48% of normal for this time of year. However, keep in mind this is a preliminary survey. All the snow survey courses up and down the Sierra Nevada for many river systems will be completed in February. Let’s hope for more “wet snow” so the water content is high, which means closer to normal averages.