From April 1-10, the spring Canoemobile paddled on the Lost Slew of the Cosumnes River with hundreds of students from the Galt area schools. As outdoor leaders, our days were full of countless smiles, unbridled enthusiasm, and infectious joy. One student, Diego, philosophically commented that “This looks like paradise.” Emily cut to the chase and just asked, “Can we go on this field trip again?” In addition to their time in our Voyager canoes, students participated in land-based learning stations that included micro invertebrates, orienteering, and mosquito vector control.
They were busy days, full of applying classroom science learning to the real world and forging new personal relationships with their local environment. Deer, turtles, and a rookery of Great blue herons obligingly put in multiple well-timed appearances that sparked student-led discussions about habitat and wildlife. Yet, as true of all Canoemobile stops, none of these experiences is possible without our partners. Here at Cosumnes River Preserve, we partner not only with local organizations but with a preserve that is itself a partnership.
Unlike so many of our wild spaces that were set aside as a block, the Cosumnes River Preserve is a patchwork of protected lands that has been forged together by the will of seven land-owning partners and the cooperation of agricultural operations. Talk about a group project! The list of landowners includes federal, state, and local government organizations as well as The Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited. Why is the Cosumnes River so important? The Cosumnes is the only undammed river in the Central Valley of California. The Cosumnes stretches from the slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains into the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and is home to a long list of important ecological resources including rare stands of valley oak groves, riparian forests, vernal pool grasslands, and wetlands that serve as an important part of the Pacific flyway. The preserve is a real-world laboratory for understanding these habitats and the role of floodwaters. Taking advantage of these resources are all kinds of learners, from cutting edge researchers to our Canoemobile participants. This past week, scores of knowledgeable volunteers supported these learning opportunities.
I always like to say that magic happens on Canoemobile. As Leah Wheeler, UGNS project director at Galt schools, states, “Most kids have never been on this waterway before, or they have never been in a canoe. Canoemobile brings that to their world.”