Backpacking — Sierra Nevada Water Report — July 31, 2015

The Sierra streams are flowing!   Great news for backpackers, not to mention the flora and fauna that depend on those molecules of life.

High Sierra Topix continues to provide up to date trip reports for backpackers and hikers.

One particularly valuable report is by Joshua Courter.  He reports on water conditions in the Golden Trout Wilderness area, which is the heart of the southern Sierra Nevada high country.  Based on my experience, this report likely provides a good indication of water availability in most of the rest of the Sierra, because the watershed includes snow-influenced high peaks that also ride the ridge of the divide between coastal and desert influences.  The monsoonal moisture from the desert makes it over those ridges in the summer to replenish the water courses with afternoon thunderstorms.

Joshua reports that most of the upper basin creeks and streams are flowing, including water courses near popular trails.

The bigger picture seems to be that even though last winter’s snowpack was meager at best, the monsoonal moisture seems to be providing some relief.

The LA Times explains how monsoons impact Southern California during El Nino episodes.  That same moisture makes it all the way up the eastern flanks of California and peeks over the Sierra divide.  Here is the LA Times graphic showing the monsoonal pattern:

Source: LA Times 7/29/2015
Source: LA Times 7/29/2015

As most Southern California surfers can attest, watching day boats catching schools of tuna 1/4 mile offshore and avoiding sharks under their dangling feet, El Nino seems to be here in a big way.  That weather phenomenon may be helping rehydrate the Sierra as well, with more frequent afternoon showers.

Bottom line:  it is looking better for late summer backpacking in the Sierra; at least in terms of how many water bottles one needs to carry.

Happy hiking!