The Opportunity

The San Joaquin is California’s second-longest river, stretching 330 miles from its headwaters in the Sierra Nevada to its mouth at the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the largest estuary on the west coast of North America. Its watershed comprises 38,000 square miles—nearly a fifth of the State of California. Its major tributaries—the Merced, the Tuolumne, and the Stanislaus—bring snowmelt, a precious water supply, from the Sierra Nevada to both Central Valley and coastal communities. Communities, farms, and wildlife rely upon the vital water supplies that the river delivers.

A nationally significant restoration program is underway that will re-establish water flows in sections of the San Joaquin River that have been dry for more than 60 years. Here is an unprecedented opportunity to enhance our community connection to and enjoyment of the San Joaquin River now and into the future.

The San Joaquin River Blueway will allow families and individuals who live in the San Joaquin Valley and Californians from across the state to visit and enjoy our river. Blueways weave together natural spaces surrounding bodies of water to create a corridor of recreational access and to preserve important landscapes. Blueways offer many benefits and they can be tailored to meet the needs of communities and landowners. As the San Joaquin River Blueway evolves over decades into a system of recreational and natural areas, linked by the river itself, it will offer many opportunities to enhance our quality of life. The Blueway will provide spots to go fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, biking, wildlife-watching, hunting or picnicking; places for families, neighbors, friends, church groups, youth groups, and others to gather near the river together; and outdoor classrooms where children and adults can learn about their natural, historical, and cultural river heritage.

Rivers are particularly important sanctuaries for our natural world of plants and animals, especially in dry climates. At the same time, rivers have been extremely important to the development of our country. They have invited exploration, attracted settlement, provided transportation, made electricity, supplied building materials, irrigated crops, and watered range animals. Over the past thirty years, communities across the nation have increasingly turned to their rivers as a focus for community revitalization, realizing that improvements to the health and accessibility of these waterways beautifies the built environment and strengthens the community’s social and economic fabric.

The San Joaquin River Blueway has the potential to become a nationally significant public asset, one which taps into Valley heritage and community pride to create a lasting legacy for future generations.