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Shallow Undercurrents

Matt Stoecker
Summer 2011

The exact source of the San Lorenzo River is elusive: It begins where towering redwoods in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains harvest water from storms and fog drifting in from the Pacific Ocean. The water drops penetrate deep into the absorbent forest floor and underground only to re-emerge later from coldwater springs. Gravity pulls the water over falls and cascades; other streams enter, and soon, a river is born. Frogs, turtles, salamanders, kingfishers, cougars and many other species depend on the San Lorenzo. The flowing water carries dissolved oxygen and drifting insects into the mouths of hovering steelhead trout, and continues downstream to mix in a brackish lagoon before discharging and spreading sand into the Santa Cruz surf and the Pacific Ocean beyond.

On a spring day you can climb at Castle Rock near the top of the San Lorenzo River watershed, mountain bike or hike down numerous forest trails, kayak a whitewater gorge, and surf near the river’s mouth. It’s not surprising that, for centuries, people have moved to this piece of paradise where the mountains and a river meet the sea. But as the human population of this region has grown, a shallow undercurrent threatens it all.

About the Author
Matt Stoecker is a restoration ecologist who is focused on restoring wild steelhead and salmon, and identifying long-term solutions that restore
watersheds, ensure community safety, and provide for reliable and low-impact water supplies moving into the future.