Oakley in Contra Costa County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)
The San Joaquin: A River Runs Dry
Picture a river running through a desert. Now picture a desert running through a river.
The San Joaquin River once flowed uninterrupted from high mountains, through the arid valley bearing its name, to the Delta. Floods enriched valley soils and replenished groundwater that in turn fed the river through the dry summer. The southernmost salmon run in North America thrived here.
Since 1941, Friant Dam has held back those floodwaters to irrigate the rich soils of San Joaquin Valley farms. With that water, over one million parched acres became some of the most productive farmland on earth.
But the river ran dry below the dam.
Although downstream tributaries, canals, and runoff from fields and cities "restart” the river on its way to the Delta, 60 miles of the San Joaquin River became a desert within its banks. Thus the salmon run ended.
In a landmark 2005 court ruling, water users agreed to release more water from Friant Dam in an attempt to bring back the salmon. With this water the San Joaquin may transform from desert back to river.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Agriculture • Environment • Waterways & Vessels. A significant historical year for this entry is 1941.
Location. 38° 0.665′ N, 121° 43.684′ W. Marker is in Oakley, California, in Contra Costa County. Marker can be reached from Big Break Road. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Oakley CA 94561, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. California's Big Water Projects: How Did We Get Here? (within shouting distance of this marker); The Migrating Delta (within shouting distance of this marker); Carquinez Strait (within shouting distance of this marker); Dredges (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Stopped by Impenetrable Marshes (approx. 0.2 miles away); "...What we see and have before us is not a river, but much water in a pond" (approx. 1.4 miles away); Anza Expedition Campsite 101 (approx. 1.4 miles away); July 4, Anno Domini, 1951 (approx. 4.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Oakley.
More about this marker. The marker is in Big Break Regional Shoreline, on the path to the Delta Discovery Experience.
Credits. This page was last revised on January 20, 2022. It was originally submitted on January 20, 2022, by Andrew Ruppenstein of Lamorinda, California. This page has been viewed 76 times since then and 10 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on January 20, 2022, by Andrew Ruppenstein of Lamorinda, California.