1-21-10 The Laguna de Santa Rosa inundated with flood waters, looking south from Occidental Road ~ Copyright © 2010 Cynthe Brush

The Laguna de Santa Rosa is the second largest freshwater marsh in northern California. Called the “river that flows both ways,” during heavy rains, the Laguna flows south carrying floodwaters away from the Russian River, reducing its flood levels. After rains subside and Pacific Ocean tides fall, the Laguna reverses its flow, returning the floodwater north, back into the Russian River and eventually to the ocean. Other water enters the Laguna from a collection of creeks, tributaries, springs, seeps and sub-surface flows. Because of this diverse water supply, the Laguna ~ through primarily a marsh ~ has characteristics of a stream, creek, seasonal wetland, open water, and other aquatic habitats in various locations.

WED 2:30pm ~ Hills over Lake Sonoma, one of our drinking water reservoirs, had received 8.01 in. rain since the storm onslaught started on SAT. After beginning the new year at 10-year lows, Lake Sonoma rose nearly 8½ ft in 48 hrs. gaining 10,843 acre-feet overnight / now at 90% capacity. Lake Mendocino rose nearly 7½ ft. gaining 11,150 feet / now at 69% capacity. Bill & I are going to see Laguna de Santa Rosa, later today.

1-21-10 Laguna de Santa Rosa flood waters, looking east from the Occidental & High School Roads intersection ~ Copyright © 2010 Cynthe Brush

1-21-10 Laguna de Santa Rosa flood waters, looking south from the Occidental Road bridge ~ Copyright © 2010 Cynthe Brush

1-21-10 The Laguna de Santa Rosa innundated with flood waters, looking north from Occidental Road ~ Copyright © 2010 Cynthe Brush

~ Looking east / west / north / south. Water as far as you can see. I walked in this field in NOV. (photo below)
There’s a broad creek behind that row of trees, most of the year.

NOV 2009 ~ Laguna de Santa Rosa, looking east towards the hills. Copyright © 2009-2010 Cynthe Brush

1-21-10 Private Property signs on gate submerged in Laguna flood waters ~ Copyright © 2010 Cynthe Brush

~ Looking southeast. More water.

The Laguna is a major retention basin, critical to reducing flood levels in the Russian River. The watershed encompasses 250 square miles and drains the southwestern part of Santa Rosa, the Cotati-Rohnert Park area, as well as the eastern side of Sebastopol. Whenever the flood stage in the Russian River is higher than that in the Laguna, river waters flow into the Laguna, creating a temporary lake. The total flood storage capacity is 80,000 acre feet at the 76 foot elevation. By comparison, 130,000-acre feet are allocated to flood control at Lake Sonoma. Inundation of land along the Laguna may occur several times in a wet year (Elgar-Hill, November 1983).

Donald Head commemorative sign on Occidental Road Bridge over the Laguna de Santa Rosa

1-22-10 The Laguna de Santa Rosa trees & telephone poles inundated with flood waters, looking northwest from Occidental Road ~ Copyright © 2010 Cynthe Brush

When floodwaters rise above the 76-foot level, the storage capacity exceeds that of our reservoirs, Lakes Mendocino and Sonoma, combined. Without this natural flood storage area, the 100-year flood level at Guerneville would be 14 feet higher, effectively submerging most of the town’s structures. Any decrease in the Laguna’s storage capacity means a corresponding increase in flood levels.

What a DIFFERENCE a day makes! The sun broke through Friday afternoon. Bill & I ‘played hookey’ for an hour mid-afternoon to spend a bit of time enjoying daylight in our eyes & chill breezes on our faces, rather than basking in the blue glow of our computer monitors.

It was VERY social at the Laguna. Folks, photographers & birds (robins, tall elegant great & dainty snowy egrets , ducks, geese, raptors & song birds) were flocking round.

Billowing Clouds over the Laguna de Santa Rosa seen from Sanford Road ~ Copyright © 2003-2010 Cynthe Brush

1-22-10 The eastern edge of Laguna de Santa Rosa inundated with flood waters, looking west from Sanford Road ~ Copyright © 2010 Cynthe Brush

Both these images were taken from Sanford Road. The upper one shows the Laguna in March 2003.
The lower image was taken 2 days ago after a week of rainstorms.

Photographers appreciate each other’s need to capture the fleeting moment. Got a wave from one fellow photographing flooded Sanford Road a bit before the turn at Occidental Road intersection. Another fellow was out with his Nikon and a fixed focus 50mm lens. He admired my D5000 dSLR that my sister gifted me last year. We enjoyed strategizing about how to photograph the sparkling raindrops dancing on the water’s surface while shooting straight into the brilliant winter sun. He got the shot. The rain spritz stopped before I got mine.

1-21-10 The Laguna de Santa Rosa inundated with flood waters, looking south from Occidental Road ~ Copyright © 2010 Cynthe Brush

1-21-10 The Laguna de Santa Rosa inundated with flood waters, looking south from Occidental Road ~ Copyright © 2010 Cynthe Brush

~ Storm clouds reflected in the flooded Laguna de Santa Rosa

Turns out he works for the Santa Rosa Creeks district. I learned a lot of interesting things in our short conversation:
~ Santa Rosa has more than 30 creeks that run through the city limits.
~ Santa Rosa creek (one of the major ones) discharges into the Laguna (which I suspected).
~ The Laguna flows south to north (surprised me), part of the Russian River watershed (knew that).
~ The Laguna discharges into Mark West Creek (had no idea), which then empties into the Russian River.
~ The direction of flow & creek/stream connections can be viewed at: www.SantaRosaCity.org/sewerroutes

I so appreciate our agencies and citizens have preserved the Laguna to serve its natural function of being a flood plain. It’s obvious, when we get these back-to-back rainstorms, that the water needs to go ‘somewhere!‘ Much better if it doesn’t flood people’s homes and businesses. Unfortunately, the building permits push the edges of what areas are safe and building projects have encroached on the flood plain.

Enjoyed our photo excursions the past two days. The folks I met were very friendly and conversational. Whether on the way home from work or escaping work at home, each of us are responding to nature with awe as we contemplate the waters. And even with the inconvenience of flooding, we’re grateful for the rain which California so desperately needs.

1-21-10 Two oaks in the Laguna de Santa Rosa inundated with flood waters, looking northeast from Occidental Road ~ Copyright © 2010 Cynthe Brush

Learn more from these resources: The Laguna Wetlands Preserve and Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation. And let’s each do our part, by cleaning up our businesses, parking lots, driveways & yards…Everyone benefits!

*   *   *
All photographs and D’Gravure Etchings may be purchased by emailing the artist: Cynthe@SpringMoonFineArtPrints.com.  Check these links for information on sizes & pricing or art print care.

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