The Feather River is about 71 miles long but there are many smaller branches off of the main segments. The furthest headwater tributary snakes up 221 miles into Northern California. Frequented daily for fishing, gold panning and swimming, the water behind Paradise has long been popular for recreational activities to those living nearby. Spots referred to as Dean Road, Head Dam and The Hospital are starting points to reach swimming holes that are much deeper than most other accessible sites along the stretch of stream. Recently, these swimming areas have been blanketed under the pseudo nickname “The Flumes”. This namesake comes from the PG&E water canals (actual flumes) that allocate water from the Feather River and run parallel for miles to be used for hydroelectricity.
Stories about the river intrigued me as a youth. It was revered as an oasis just down the dirt road into the canyon. Though my entire childhood had been spent in Paradise, it wasn’t until the summer before starting high school that I swam in the Feather River. Excitement was an understatement. This was my rite of passage. A bumpy ride in the back of a pickup which would lead to jumping off of a rock into green, exhilarating coolness.
Though the initial jump did not disappoint, once I realized how accessible my sacred gem actually was, my thoughts of a hidden Nirvana disappeared. What replaced the mirage was an ultimate appreciation for it’s natural beauty, a real heaven on Earth. In each of the countless number of visits that I’ve made to the small branch of the river, I’m still amazed by it’s presence.
After moving away for college, my appreciation and excitement of the river changed. No longer did I have the freedom of hopping into my car on a whim and feeling the shock of cold water within minutes. However, since I’ve returned, the first plunge of every visit has lived up to my day-dreams concocted in hot university classrooms. Though, the idea of hoarding these spots is absurd since they are for everyone to enjoy, it brings me dismay to see cars filling up the parking lots and paths.
The sharing of pictures on social media, as well as, printed material have increased the popularity of certain swimming spots.
Unfortunately, with the influx of humans comes our trails of waste.
When I was younger, I didn’t pay as much attention to litter and wasn’t as concerned about it. If a Gatorade bottle floated away it wasn’t a big deal. Occasional cigarette butts stood out as much as sticks and beer cans weathered by multiple seasons rusted different shades of brown. When it comes to litter appropriation, my younger self shared the same subconscious mindset of others.
“We didn’t put it there. It’s not our problem.”
Well, I clearly see now that it is EVERYONE’S PROBLEM. In a snowballing effect, the popular trails and swimming spots along the Feather River have become increasingly littered. Visitors see trash and they feel it’s O.K. to leave their trash. The concepts of cleanliness and caring have been lost upon many who are fortunate enough to enjoy the river.
At every spot that I’ve visited this summer beer cans, food trash and even broken glass have been present without exception. Along with causing eyesore, the trash poses safety problems. If the waste left by humans continues to grow these pleasant areas will become entirely unenjoyable. Most importantly is the disastrous footprint being left on nature in the shape of man-made garbage.
Countless animals and plants, native to the area, are killed because of pollution in their home.
Pictures do not do justice to the damage that is being caused from excessive consumption and ultimate laziness.
Everyone should realize that the Feather River can’t be taken for granted and needs help if it’s to survive for future generations. Hopefully, the call to action will come to individuals before they are injured or unable to enjoy these places altogether.
In California, the realization that water is scarce is generally causing residents to take action. If the treated water coming out of the tap is considered precious, why have we become so accepting to pollute fresh natural water?