Before the gentle rains arrived this week the waters of the Russian River were flowing leisurely toward the Pacific. But recently the river movement was so slow that there wasn’t enough power behind it to push through the beach sands to make its natural connection with the ocean.
The Russian River Estuary closes various times throughout the year as a result of a sandbar forming at the mouth of the river. In opposition to the river’s flow, the ocean waves transport sand landward, rebuilding the beach that was removed by river outflows. Closures result in the ponding of the river behind the sandbar, and thus the water level increases in the Estuary.
Natural breaching events occur when the estuary water surface levels exceed the sandbar height and flows over the top the sandbar, carving an outlet channel. But public agencies have also been involved in breaching the stubborn sandbar since at least the 1960s.
This past week the steelhead trout were anxiously waiting in the ocean anticipating the moment they could swim upstream. So, with a little help from the Sonoma County Water Agency, the sandbar was breached. I expected to hear a tumultuous gushing sound once the river began to pass through the newly formed sand walls. But it was a surprisingly gentle flow with ribbon-like ripples heading to the sea’s distant horizon.
Like other rivers along the California coast, the Russian River, its estuaries and tributaries are home to an abundant wildlife community in and along the river and are a key spawning ground for native Coho and Chinook salmon and the famous Steelhead trout.
The mouth of the Russian River flows past the town of Jenner and out through Goat Rock beach, the northernmost park of Sonoma Coast State Beaches. It is a wonderful place for a meditative beach walk and to enjoy the ocean breeze, feel the fog as it rolls in and out, and watch the soaring sea birds while listening to the singing of the harbor seals. One is easily inspired by being on this edge of the American continent.
Whether by nature or back-hoe, the breaching reminds me of the chant, “The River is Flowing.” This chant describes the river’s flow of life as it grows towards our universal oneness. It invokes the spirit of water and of the Mother and can connect us to our deep spiritual journey and emotional expressions.The river is flowing, flowing and growing. The river is flowing back to the sea. Mother Earth carry me, child I will always be. Mother Earth carry me back to the sea. Chant by Diana Hildbrand – Hull in Circle of Songs, Compiled by Kate Marks.