San Joaquin, California, US
|Usual Difficulty||I (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||1 fpm|
|Max Gradient||1 fpm|
|SAN JOAQUIN R NR DOS PALOS|
|cdec-SDP||200 - 8000 cfs||I||02h27m||3 cfs (too low)|
|SAN JOAQUIN R AT SAN MATEO RD NR MENDOTA|
|cdec-SJN||100 - 2000 cfs||I||198d04h56m||1 cfs (too low)|
|cdec-JBP||200 - 4000 cfs||I||249d10h57m||2467 cfs (running)|
|Contributes to flow at Mendota during wet years|
|SAN JOAQUIN R NR MENDOTA CA|
|usgs-11254000||200 - 6000 cfs||I||13h26m||117 cfs (too low)|
|SAN JOAQUIN R A FREMONT FORD BRIDGE CA|
|usgs-11261500||400 - 8000 cfs||I||00h57m||70 cfs (too low)|
This section is flatwater and especially suited for canoes and touring kayaks.
There is playboat potential at the outflow from the Mendota Pool dam, but there are usually lots
of fishing lines from people up on the dam. The reach is of particular interest
because of its historic and political significance.
The flow situation here is unusual. Friant dam normally diverts all of the water that would flow in this section. Most San Joaquin river water is diverted south to Tulare and Kern counties via the Friant Kern Canal, and some is diverted north through the Madera Canal.
To provide water to Mendota and Firebaugh area farms, water from the Sacramento and Feather rivers, is pumped out of the Sacramento - San Joaquin delta, into the Delta Mendota Canal. This water reenters the San Joaquin River at Mendota Pool immediately above the put-in. Water then flows down the river to various irrigation diversions, till there is no more. The river is empty and dried up by the time it crosses highway 152. It is an expensive process, but worth it to the farmers, since your federal tax money pays for much of the real costs.
A settlement agreement in 2006 between the Bureau of Reclamation and various environmental groups, lead by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), mandates that sufficient flows be returned to this river so that it does not dry up and that salmon may once again swim up the river to spawn. In accordance to the agreement, restoration test flows began in October 2009. In the spring of 2010, water once again flowed from Friant all the way to the confluence with the Merced and on to the San Joaquin/Sacramento Delta. Several long sections of river which were usually dry for the last 60 years, now have low but steady flows.
Between Mendota and Sack Dam, the river flows past farmland. North of Highway 152 the river
flows through the Merced and San Luis wildlife refuges and through the Great Valley Grasslands
Put in: There is a wide, dirt boat ramp just downstream of Mendota Pool Dam. There is plenty of Parking. From Highway 180 on the north side of Mendota, take Bass Road past Mendota Pool park, to the dam.
Take Out: There appears to be informal public access on the east side of the river on Hills Ferry Road at the confluence with the Merced River. There is a nice public park on river left just downstream of the highway bridge in Firebaugh. View the map tab for locations of other possible access locations.
Mendota Pool to Firebaugh is a pleasant 10 mile float suitable for beginners. The scenery is nice, though the riparian zone appears to be narrow along most of this distance. Still, there is lots of wildlife to see. With 1300 cfs the trip will take around 3 hours for a kayak or canoe.
Other Information Sources:
San Joaquin River Restoration Project
San Joaquin River Restoration: CA DWR page
Dept of Fish & Game: Restoration pdf
Revive the San Joaquin
Save the San Joaquin
Merced National Wildlife Refuge
San Luis National Wildlife Reguge
Great Valley Grasslands State Park
A minimart in Firebaugh at a main intersection of highway 33, has a large and informative display about the history of the area.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.0||Mendota Pool Dam||N/A|
|2.4||Gauge below Mendota||N/A|
|7.5||Firebaugh Wasteway confluence||N/A|
|23.0||Gauge near Dos Palos||N/A|
|36.8||Chowchilla Bypass - Confluence||N/A|
|43.7||Sandy Mush Road||N/A|
|59.0||Highway 165 - Lander Ave||N/A|
|67.0||Fremont Ford State Rec Area||N/A|
|74.0||Merced River Confluence - Hills Ferry Road||N/A|
There is easy access for launching boats just downstream of the dam.
A Bureau of Reclamation gauging station is on river left. Water in this section is usually pumped from the delta, via the Delta-Mendota Canal. During the winter and spring flows can come from Friant, from Pine Flat via the Kings, pumped out of Tulare Lake or perhaps from west side creeks.
The gauge is housed in a vertical corrugated pipe with a solar panel on top. The cable crossing just downstream is used to measure the actual streamflow and calibrate the river level gauge.
The Firebaugh Wasteway channel comes in from the left. It appears to be a drain of some kind. It probably carries treated waste water from the Firebaugh sewage treatment plant. Looks like it can be flushed out with water from the Delta-Mendota Canal.
The concrete remains of the old rotary bridge on the right side of the channel, signal this access point. Take out or launch next to the white gazebo on river left.
A small dam backs up the river, allowing diversion of most of the flow into the Arroyo Canal on the left.
Sack Dam Sack Dam is 5-foot-high low-head structure used to divert water from the San Joaquin River into Arroyo Canal. Diversions to Arroyo canal are usually limited to 600 cfs, but range from 0 to 800 cfs (Reclamation 2009b). Recently, changes in groundwater use are causing subsidence between the Eastside Bypass and the San Joaquin River. The San Luis Canal Company (SLCC) reports recent subsidence of Sack Dam at rates exceeding 0.5 foot per year (SLCC 2013)
This gauge measures the flow below Sack Dam. This section was normally dry after the construction of Friant Dam. The San Joaquin Restoration process might bring dependable flows back to this section of river. As of 2014 the river remains dry in this section till the Merced confluence.
It may be possible to access the river under this bridge, but there are likely to be fences blocking the way.
There is a small dam just south of W. Washington Road and about 1/2 mile before the confluence with the Eastside Bypass. Might be easier to portage on river right. There may be public acces to the river from the road here as well.
The Chowchilla Bypass rejoins the river here. Or rather, the river joins the bypass. The channel is pretty much a straight ditch after this for a long ways.
There may or may not be public access at this road crossing.
The Merced National Wildlife Refuge is on the east side of the river and to the south of the road.
Portage on either side, but it may be better on river left.
There may be access at this bridge. The west side of the road is the boundary of the Great Valley Grasslands State Park.
This state park provides parking and river access. It is on the west side of the river just south of the highway 140 bridge. This is now part of the Great Valley Grasslands State Park.
There appears to be public river access on the south side of Hills Ferry Road, just east of the bridge. The Merced River enters on the right.
Outlines California recreational navigation laws and court rulings in relationship to navigation on the San Joaquin River and bypass waterways in Merced County.