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Tulare Lake is Back!

Admin | May 23, 2024 @ 12:00 AM

Losing Tulare Lake

When settlers originally reached the territories now known as Tulare County, they found massive rivers feeding into Tulare Lake. A Spanish priest named Francisco Garces wrote that he "came upon a large river which made much noise at the outlet of the Sierra de San Marcos", Spaniards soon strained relations with natives in the area following conflicts over the shared resources of both populations. Most of the natives in the area relocated rather than deal with their new neighbors or fight with them. A member of the gold discovery party on Kern River in 1853 John Barker described the lake as "a very large sheet of water, about 60 miles in length by 40 miles at its widest place." Today that lake sits empty after being used for farming, and drinking water, and the lake suffered lowered rainfall levels over the last few decades. The draining of Tulare Lake was situational; its resources were harvested from the beginning, and fish and water were drained from the lake at rates so fast it damaged the ecosystem permanently. One fisherman William Browning was quoted saying " Sometimes we probably hauled as many as three tons of mixed fish and terrapin, including many perch too small for use and carp, catfish, suckers, chub and lake trout. Everything we could not market was thrown back. We threw back some fish so often we came to know them by sight and gave them names."

Abnormal Rainfall

Recently, California's been experiencing an unprecedented rain season around the state. Up until recently California had been in an ongoing state of drought for years, agricultural water use in the northern part of California and decreased rainfall in recent years contributed to the water crisis the state found itself in until recently. Due to recent changes in the global environment, California's average temperature has risen, allowing for more water retention in the atmosphere. This change has been the driving force behind the "atmospheric rivers" that dramatically increased the rainfall compared to years past. Between 2022 and the present year, the 100%+ increase in rainfall around the state filled California's depleted reservoirs following years of drought and man-made damage to the lake. The original settlers in the area were faced with a problem not present for the natives before them, the lake itself sat on land the settlers sought to use. Natives in the area even had a name for the biggest body of water this side of the Mississippi, revering and respecting their environment was a core principle of pre- columbian native groups, which led to a society consisting of foraging that sustained itself mostly on acorns. The Yokut was the name given to the 60+ tribes that resided in California before European intervention. These tribes were integrated regardless of their differing languages, cultures, and practices because of the rapid rate in which land was distributed in the new territory. Officials offered rewards for land parcels for anyone who drained the portion of the lake they would claim. The flooded areas surrounding the lake were also drained to further provide arable land to the growing population of settlers. Drained land would then be collected and sold for the same or a higher price than dry land.

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