Children swim in the San Joaquin river on a hot October day. The San Joaquin River is California's second-longest waterway, fed by snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
From Friant dam it is divvied up and shunted into a vast network of canals to supply water for millions of acres of farmland and the Central Valley's growing cities. For decades, one 60-mile section—beginning 38 miles downstream of Friant Dam and stretching to the San Joaquin's confluence with the Merced River—ran dry. Parts of the river where water still flowed were blighted with pesticides and fertilizer, creating massive algal blooms and dead zones.
The intensive engineering of the river exacted a huge toll on its native ecosystems. No species suffered more than the Chinook salmon, whose epic migration from the Pacific Ocean to its spawning grounds in the High Sierra was cut short by numerous choke points, not the least of which was Friant's impenetrable barrier of concrete.
In a resent settlement mandated that a mere fraction of the San Joaquin's historic flow be restored. The river's many dams would remain, but alternative passages would be built and new spawning areas added in the lower river. In other words, the settlement sought to give the salmon a chance to survive within a massive water management scheme that favors industrial-scale farming. Photographed on assignment for Sierra Magazine
A canoe on the San Joaquin river. below Friant. CA.
The Friant dam as clouds pass over- Constructed just after the Great Depression, Friant Dam was devised to control the San Joaquin River.
a low Millerton lake with Friant Dam in the background in haze of smoke from the Creek fire in the Sierras.
A couple are on a date fishing on Millerton Lake, a reservoir created by the Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River.
Amanda Agosta and Wilson Xiong are working in their makeshift lab tagging smolt salmon, next to the San Joaquin River, near Fresno,CA.
Mandy Agosta ( Animal Biology Master's student Ecophysiology and Biotelemetry Labs University of California, Davis ) stands on the edge of the San Joaquin River where it passes under highway 99 near Fresno, CA.
After being tagged the fish gets one stitch to close up the incision where the tag was inserted. The tracking helps scientists understand the journey the fish takes and identifies high mortality areas and what effects wet or dry years have on the population.
A close up of a tag that will be inserted in the salmon - this will help track them from their point of release to the Golden Gate Bridge at which point they are considered to have reached the ocean. The tracking helps scientists understand the journey the fish takes and identifies high mortality areas and what effects wet or dry years have on the population.
Juvenile spring-run Chinook Salmon are briefly held in an anesthetic bath to help calm them before being tagged.
Tori Barron and Jarod Hutcherson fish biologists are recording the weight and size of the juvenile spring-run Chinook Salmon. These salmon are hatchery fish.
Jarod Hutcherson fish Bioligist, is tagging juvenile spring-run Chinook Salmon. Using a needle free tattoo gun to make a color make on the salmons dorsal fin. The color mark helps indicate the release date and the fin mark indicates the release location.
Two juvenile salmon swim after having their adipose fins removed.
Large fully grown female salmon swim in a hatchery tank. The fish prefer hiding in the shadows just as they would in the wild.