Masthead: Kaweah Range

Landscapes and Management

Trans Sierra Nevada Crest National Parks:
A Proposal to Expand Parklands

W. Derlet, MD 
Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine  
University of California, Davis 
Sacramento, CA 
Charles Goldman, Ph.D.
Environmental Science & Policy
University of California, Davis    Davis, CA

To protect California's increasingly scarce wildlands and water sources, as well as expand recreational opportunities for California and the nation,the authors propose a set of new National Parks in the Sierra, stretching from Mt. Lassen in the north, to the Kern River in the south.

Twentieth Century Glacier Change in the Sierra Nevada, California
Hassan Basagic
Graduate Student
Geography Department
Portland State University

Several hundred permanent ice fields and glaciers dot the Sierra Nevada. All of them began to form during the Little Ice Age when the Sierra's climate began to cool in the 1300s. They reached their maximum in the 1850s. In the last few decades most have begun to shrink rapidly. Researcher Hassan Basagic introduces us to the Sierra's glaciers and the direction his research will take.

2007 Report on Analysis of Water Quality of Lakes and Streams in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
Robert W. Derlet, M.D.
University of California, Davis

Dr. Derlet has now accumulated over a decade of extensive water quality sampling of both Yosemite and Sequoia Kings National Parks. Increasingly, he's looking at patterns emerging from his data showing significant differences in water quality depending on whether it receives little or no visitor use; heavy visitor use and use by stock (horses and mules). He's also noting the relative prevalence of algae in lakes and streams and speculates on its causes in otherwise pristine Sierra water.

Sierra Nevada Climate

Scott Stine
Department of Geography and
Environmental Studies
California State University
Hayward, California

With recent news reports of pikas disappearing from their former range and lower elevation critters moving up in elevation, what does it mean relative to long-term climatic change in the Sierra? Scott Stine compares then and now.

High Sierra Water: What is in the H20?
Robert W. Derlet, MD
Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
U.C. Davis

Kemal Ger
Department of Environmental Science
University of California, Davis

After decades of too often shrill warnings about Sierra water, Dr. Derlet continues to lower the panic level considerably with actual research. Although filters are probably not a bad idea, our Sierra streams and lakes are much, much better than we seem to think.

2006 Report on Analysis of Lakes and Streams in Kings Canyon National Park for Coliform Bacteria and other Microorganisms
Robert W. Derlet, M.D.
University of California, Davis

What's that foam hikers see at some lake outlets? Although Dr. Derlet again reports good news about Sierra water in tests he conducted in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, he expresses concern about algae growth and foam on some lakes and streams.

When is the best time to cross a mountain stream?
Understanding daily variations in streamflow

Jessica Lundquist Soon-to-be PhD
Hydroclimatology Group
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Gnarly old rangers will tell you to cross spring streams early in the morning when the water is lowest. As T.H. Huxley once observed, there is nothing more tragic than “the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.”

Jessica Lunquist has been studying snowmelt in the Sierra for several years and finds that such expert advice ain't necessarily so.

Sierra Nevada Earthquake History From Lichens
on Rockfall Blocks

William B. Bull
Emeritus Professor of Geosciences, University of Arizona

In Yosemite Valley, one morning about two o'clock I was aroused by an earthquake; and though I had never before enjoyed a storm of this sort, the strange, wild thrilling motion and rumbling could not be mistaken, and I ran out of my cabin, near the Sentinel Rock, both glad and frightened, shouting, “A noble earthquake!” feeling sure I was going to learn something.

So John Muir described the violent Lone Pine quake (7.6) of March 26, 1872. Prehistoric earthquakes are difficult to date, especially the more recent ones. Bill Bull describes a very promising method measuring lichen growth on the rockfall often generated by such sublime events. It's also an exciting technique interested amateurs can do with just a few basic tools.

A Walk Through the Hydroclimate Network in Yosemite National Park: River Chemistry
Dave Peterson, Rich Smith, Steve Hager

United States Geological Survey

The core of a healthy Sierra ecosystem is water. Hydroclimatologists are now measuring critical components of Sierra water as it makes its way from winter clouds to snow, rivulets, streams and at last — makes its way to the Pacific in California’s great river systems. What is gained and what is lost on this journey to the Golden Gate?

This article is in PDF format and is viewable with Adobe Reader which is a free download from Adobe.

Airborne Pollutants in National Parks: Sequoia Park joins Large Study Effort
Judy Rocchio
Air Quality Program Coordinator
Pacific West Region
National Park Service

Toxic chemicals such as mercury and the long US-banned DDT are showing up in the Sierra. They are coming from as far away as China and even Europe, borne on upper level winds and deposited thousands of miles from their source in Sierra streams and lakes. A huge research effort has begun throughout the West to determine the extent of the problem and begin international efforts towards a solution.

Restoring the Giant Sequoias at Giant Forest, Sequoia National Park
Athena Demetry
Restoration Ecologist
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Patrick Whitmarsh
Comandra Technical Consulting

In the 1930s, Sequoia National Park Superintendent John White fought to keep development out of the park's ancient groves of Giant Sequoias. He was mostly unsuccessful. At long last, though, park administrators and restoration ecologists have undertaken a multi-year project to realize White's dream and restore these formidable giants to their pristine beauty.

Starry, Starry Night
A Thing of the Past?

Judy Rocchio NPS Pacific West Region, Air Quality
Tamara Williams Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Natural Resources
Dan Duriscoe Physical Scientist, Night Sky Project, Death Valley National Park

All across the country — and the world — the stars are winking out. Increasingly, the glow of city lights make it too difficult to see the Milky Way and a significant number of stars that would otherwise be visible to the naked eye. The National Park Service is joining a growing effort to determine the extent of the problem and implement solutions so we can continue to enjoy “the profoundly moving beauty” of a moonless night.

Yosemite Falls—A New Perspective
By N. King Huber

Geologist Emeritus U. S. Geological Survey.

Upper Yosemite Fall now leaps from the hanging valley of Yosemite Creek. In the not-too-distant geologic past its water cascaded down through the prominent ravine immediately to the west (left).

Snow at lower elevations always melts first… or does it?
Synchronous Snowmelt and Streamflow in the Sierra

by Jessica Lundquist Doctoral Candidate
Hydroclimatology Group
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Over half of the water supply in the West is derived from mountain snowmelt. In recent decades, though, the initiation of spring melt has come progressively earlier in the season, and runoff from spring and summer snowmelt has declined markedly. Researchers, having entirely too much fun, poke and probe the snowpakck for answers.

The Soundprints Of Science
By Elizabeth F. van Mantgem
Conservation Biologist, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

The sounds of wilderness — or their lack —are a vital part of not only our experience as visitors but, as new evidence is showing, critical to the life cycles of animals. Elizabeth van Mantgem describes the recent work of Dr. Bernie Krause working to quantify the deterioration of the biophony, or natural orchestras, in our National Parks.

The Great Droughts of Y1K
Scott Stine, Ph.D
California State University, Hayward

Less than a thousand years ago, two severe droughts, ending about AD 1100 and AD 1350, caused major ecological changes in the west. We can still see evidence of that time in, for instance, the tips of trees showing in Yosemite's Tenaya Lake — their roots still attached under 70 feet of water. Can such droughts return?

The Sierra Wave
by Beth Pratt
Vice President, Yosemite Association

One of the most dramatic examples of the "poetry of clouds" Sierra visitors are often lucky to see, are lenticular clouds forming over the Sierra Crest. Beth Pratt explains the science — and poetry — of their formation.

A White Spring in the Mountains
by Christina Hargis, Ph.D

You may be mountain biking on dusty trails already or checking out conditions for wind surfing, but the mountains are still locked in snow. A former winter backcountry ranger in Yosemite listens to spring's arrival at 10,000 feet.

Understanding Smog in the Sierra
by E. F. van Mantgem Meteorological station operator for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

We think of our National Parks as the last islands of clean air and healthy ecosystems. Think again. The good news, though, is that the situation is reversible.

Looking for the Past in the Higher Elevations of Kings Canyon National Park

Thomas L. Burge, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and
William Matthews, Giant Sequoia National Monument, North Zone Archaeologist, Sequoia National Forest

For thousands of years, Native Americans lived and traded in the harsh environment along the crest of the Sierra Nevada. Two archeologists describe their recent finds in Kings Canyon's alpine zone.

Monitoring snow from the beach in San Diego:
Automatic snow sensors in the Sierra

by J
essica Lundquist
Ph.D. Candidate
Hydroclimatology Group
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
University of California, San Diego

Frostbitten fingers may be a thing of the past for snow researchers: technology now makes it possible to monitor the Sierra snowpack from sunny San Diego—or anywhere else you can plug in a computer. Still, there is some shovel work on the road to this brave new world...

Tapping the Sierra Nevada Reservoir
by David Carle
Author of Drowning the Dream and Mono Lake Viewpoint

Do you know where your drinking water comes from? Follow the long journey of snow melting at 12,000 feet on the Sierra crest to your kitchen faucet. A huge, complex and expensive maze of dams and aqueducts work in the background so water is there for you at a twist of the handle. What are the costs to California's riparian habitat as a result?

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