High Water at Berkeley Tuolumne Camp

A couple of weeks ago, during our annual week at BTC, there was an unusual late June storm that dropped up to 2 inches of rain across much of central and northern California.  The rain started during “Table Night”, the weekly talent show for campers and staff. The audience and the stage started getting wet, so Table Night adjourned to the Rec Hall.  Soon it was raining heavily. The maintenance staff threw extra tarps over tents that might have a leak or two. The rain continued all night. By the 7:45 bell next morning, nearly 2 inches had been recorded at Crane Flat, near the upper end of the South Fork Tuolumne River watershed.  At camp, the river was the highest I’ve ever seen it.

This is the secondary channel, between the island and “Sun City”. The previous day there was only standing water in the pool below this old diversion dam.

Staff were rousted early to fill bags with sand to keep Sun City’s beach from being washed away. With lots of hands helping, the beach was saved.

The high bridge over the main channel was not threatened.

But the low, seasonal bridge over the smaller channel looked as though it might start to move.

Water in the river was already a bit higher and colder than usual in late June, so signs had been posted to warn campers away from certain areas. Now even those signs were at risk of being washed away.

Dangerous current… what an understatement!

Below the Dining Hall, “Adult Beach” was inundated.

Downstream, where the channel is narrower, the water rose about 3 feet, causing “Cobble Beach” (here, on the far side of the river) to disappear.

The water crested before noon, and by late afternoon the river was already much lower. It made for a very memorable day at camp.

Tim Messick Photography • Graphics
Copyright © 2011 Tim Messick. All rights reserved.

About Tim Messick

Photographer, cartographer, and botanist/naturalist. Home is in Davis, California. Home-away-from-home is the eastern Sierra Nevada. Compiling a flora of the Bodie Hills.
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