First Update: This
comes even before this report has been published. In late July I
went to the canal in Fresno where I used to walk, taking photos
where it crosses Michigan, and others where it comes north from
McKinley. There were changes, one of them kind of sad: The tank, the
pump, the pipe the boys balanced on, and presumably the "Tank
People" are all gone, leaving nothing but a fenced-in vacant
lot. There was no sign of the "god heart." New fencing
around the transfer point at McKinley makes it hard to get a good
view of the rapids there. On the other hand, there were people
jogging and biking (in the middle of a July day), and the water was
flowing at 100%
8/5/15: Today I observed that the flow of the Helm Canal has
been turned off, although there is a lot of water in the bottom -
too much to get down into the channel. Also it stinks. The lowered
water level revealed a small tunnel, just a hole in the bank that
goes about a foot and back out, just below the high water line. I
also saw my first Clovis shopping cart, this one flatted as if it
had been run over by a truck.
there was water running into the Dry Creek canal from the west side
adjacent to the Helm. Not sure where it comes from. The pipe it runs
through is higher than the level of the pipe that carries the Helm
under Dry Creek, but it could be going through the pipe and back
into Dry Creek. I did not have a chance to check water in the Helm
canal south of Barstow.
Update 8/10/15: The flow of Dry Creek has been cut off, but
the Helm is running again. There are a lot of sections where there
is water in the bottom of Dry Creek, but more where there's no
water, and even a few footprints (most of them from egrets, but a
few human). The Helm flow seems to be just a little lower than it
was before it was stopped early in August.
On the north side of the
Helm Canal, about 200 feet past the place where it runs under Dry
Creek, there is a small cross with "RIP Nakita 10/2005 to
7/2015 Our Beloved Neenge," a teddy bear, and two balloons. The
cross has a photo of a dog. I'm not sure of the significance; I
can't imagine that a dog drowned in the canal, though I suppose it's
possible. More likely, he just liked to walk on the canal bank.
I saw several egrets,
which were considerably less skittish than usual. One reached down
several times to grab a tasty tidbit off the canal bank, and allowed
me to get within 15 feet or so.
Update 8/14/15: Since I was here on August 10, more water has
been sent down Dry Creek, but the flow has stopped now. There are a
lot of sections with water
in the bottom that were dry before, and the sand where there's
no standing water is very wet.
Update 8/17/15: Inconsistency, thy name is Dry Creek. Today
there's a trickle of water, definitely flowing, from Villa to
Barstow and no doubt beyond in both directions.
Update 8/20/15: I won't report any more of the Dry Creek Canal's
"off and on" water flows unless there's a major change.
Today, the flow has stopped. There is water from about 1/3 of the
way between Barstow and Willow, all the way to Willow, but it's a
long standing pool, with no flow. There are a half dozen ducks
taking advantage of it, and today for the first time, I definitely
saw a frog. Before I photographed this
guy, I saw a couple of them jump. They were just a flash, but it
was clearly a frog-like move. I also suspect there are fish. There
were ripples occurring constantly in some areas. Although I could
never actually see a fish, there was nothing visible that would
account for the ripples.
The west bank, which
becomes the north bank, is increasingly hard to walk on, because the
surface is no longer packed dirt, but instead loose
sand. I believe this was caused by heavy equipment being driven
on the bank. Very close to Willow, there was a small pile of trash
that I first saw at least two or three months ago. It is no ordinary
trash - it was a small box, possibly a cigar box, that had contained
papers that someone had saved from the middle of the 20th century. I
looked at some of the items earlier, and took a closer look today. A
Notepad from Royal
Furniture Co., Parkersburg, WV with 1938 and 1939 calendars
Basketball schedule for
Little Kanawha region (West Virginia) listing coach's names and
opponents for 14 schools; I couldn't find a date on it
Commencement program for
the class of 1951, Williamstown High School; speaker was a professor
from West Virginia University
U.S. Marine band 1948
tour concert program sponsored by Parkersburg Lions Club
West Virginia drivers
manual dated January 1, 1950
mimeographed programs for basketball tournaments and school plays
For the first time I
decided to follow the canal past Willow Avenue. This is a very busy,
4-lane divided street, so I had to wait for traffic to clear, then
cross to the median, and wait again to finish my crossing. There
were plenty of long breaks in traffic, so it was perfectly safe as
long as I was patient. From Willow the canal goes several hundred
feet, then runs under the parking lot of a Home Depot. This stretch
had a small puddle of water, and was all lined with
concrete, bottom and sides.
Heading back up the canal
past Willow, I noticed that the big
flood basin east of the canal where it curves to the west had a
little more water than when I photographed it a few weeks ago. The
geese were not around, but there were lots of ducks.
Update 8/22/15: OK, I lied. Today there is a trickle of water
flowing down Dry Creek. That's all I'm going to say.
Update 8/26/15: In my
original report, I didn't really say much about one thing that you
occasionally see on the canal bank - vehicles. Many of the banks are
wide enough for a vehicle to drive on, necessary for maintenance.
The ones in Fresno were especially wide, and readily accessible from
the streets they crossed. The Irrigation District does not seem to
make an serious effort to prevent "recreational" driving,
and it doesn't seem to happen a lot. I drove the segment of the
canal between Clinton and McKinley two or three times.
due to erosion there are some very narrow places, which helps to
discourage such activity. On the part of the Helm Canal where I
walk, the banks are very narrow, and you could not drive them
without having the adjacent bushes scrape your car.
I met a golf cart coming down t he bank, the first time I've seen
any moving vehicle in Clovis. I am 99% certain it was an irrigation
district employee making an inspection run.
saw something I'd never seen before - about a dozen good size chunks
of wood, cut up sections of a tree trunk, IN the water. I've seen
large pieces of wood on the bank, but never in the canal itself.
a fire in Kings Canyon National Park, we've had some spectacular
sunrises, as long as you are out early before the sun gets above
the bank of smoke to the east.
Update 9/1/15: The cats were out in force today - four of
them next to the animal shelter, and one in the (dry) canal. The geese were back in the flood
basin next to the shelter, despite no water. A few days ago my
daughter and I saw at least 200 geese in the fields where corn had
been grown on the Cal State Fresno University farm. The corn stalks
had been cut off, but obviously there was still something good
I saw a large gray bird fly up from the Helm Canal - I'm pretty sure
it was a heron, but he took off before I could get a good look.
Dry Creek canal is virtually 100% dry from Villa to Barstow - just a
few shallow puddles in one 100-foot stretch, not more than 50
gallons of water total.
Update 9/3/15: I walked the Dry Creek
Canal south of Barstow today, where it curves around to Willow. The
first half is dry, but then there's water the rest of the way, with
something, probably small fish, making ripples in the water in
several places. The water level is lower than it was a week or so
ago, so these fish are probably an endangered species unless we get
an early rain.
Update 9/7/15: I was on the bank about
6:45, very cool in shorts and t-shirt, but I knew if I wore anything
extra it would be too much by the time I finished. The water in the
Dry Creek Canal between Villa and Barstow is down to a small puddle.
This appears to be fed by a tiny trickle from a grated opening on
the east side. I'm not sure where the water comes from; maybe runoff
from the inefficient over watering of the nearby Letterman Park.
thick grass-like plants in the Helm Canal, which still has a strong
flow, are starting to change
color, turning to yellowish brown. Not
surprising considering temperatures in the 60s when I start my walks
Update 9/11/15: Today I noticed that there is a mini-forest
trees growing in the bottom of the Dry Creek canal just across
from the animal shelter. By the Helm Canal, the
memorial to "Nakita 10/2005 to
7/2015" is still there (see 8/10 update). The balloons only lasted
about two days, but the stuffed teddy bear was there till a few days
egret was on the alert at the edge of the water, watching for
breakfast, and the smoke-shrouded sun created a dramatic
reflection in the water.
Update 9/18/15: This morning I walked most of my long canal
route, but came at it from a different direction. I parked where the
Helm Canal crosses Sylmar, walked west on the short section that
ends at a wall next to the freeway, then back east to the Dry Creek
Canal bank and northwest from there. I immediately noticed that
there was a good stream of water in the formerly dry canal bed.
Across from the southwest
corner of the park, I observed that the water was coming
in through a grate where there has been a tiny trickle the past
week or so. Because the canal is almost level here, water was
flowing in both directions, both upstream and down. I soon reached a
point where the "wrong way" flow was moving into
previously dry territory, and realized that the flow had just stared
I didn't go all the way
to Villa, but crossed the bridge at the road to the animal shelter,
and walked southwest to Barstow. Along this route, the downstream
flow of water was just arriving in the dry area about 100 feet from
the street. I crossed the Barstow bridge and started back up the
west side. At the Helm Canal I found a pickup and a man doing
something at a pump
complex there. Just then dark brown water came out of a pipe on
the west side into the Dry Creek Canal.
The workman was with the
Clovis water district, and talking with him, I found that he was
running water to flush out the filters in the pumps. The water there
is used to irrigate the park. He said he was not responsible for the
water coming from upstream, but thought that they were doing
something similar, flushing the pipes that come from the water tower
With this second session
of education on canal operation (the first being the man who was
hauling away sediment dug out of the canal), I have a good start
toward a complete understanding of the water and flood control
processes in the Fresno-Clovis metro area. If I keep walking another
30 years, I'll be almost an expert.
Update 10/9/15: A few days ago I walked on the Dry Creek
Canal from Villa to Barstow, plus the Helm Canal addition. I was on
the bank when it was fully dark, something I won't do again. I'm not
worried about two- or four-legged creatures, but the rough bank
surface would be a good place to fall and get hurt. There's also the
matter of jerks who don't pick up their dog poop, which awaits the
By the time I got to
Barstow it was light enough to see safely, but still well before
sunrise. On the good side, I had an amazing view of the moon, Venus
and Jupiter, the latter blazing bright when it was dark, and still
visible just before sunrise when I got back to my car.
Today I walked the same
route, and observed that there is a good flow of water all the way
in the Dry Creek Canal, the first since mid-August.
I've also been noticing ant
trails across the banks. These are literal trails, lines in the
dirt worn by thousands of tiny feet rushing back and forth on their
Update 10/25/15: Back on the banks (Dry Creek and Helm) after
nearly two weeks traveling and hiking in Nevada, Arizona and
The Dry Creek is dry again, with a little water coming in through
the grate near the park entrance. Helm looks to be quite a bit
lower, but has some water flowing
Blue fencing strips have
been added to the chain link fence by the Animal Shelter, on the
sides facing the canal and the flood basin. I don't know the reason,
but one happy result could be that the dogs don't see people walking
on the canal, and will bark less. On the other hand, when do dogs
need a reason to bark?
Update 10/30/15: Today the Helm Canal is no longer flowing.
There is standing water in a lot of places, and deep, wet mud where
there's no water. And of course, the plants that covered the surface
nearly everywhere are still there.
Update 11/28/15: Recently I've made several drives into the
foothills on California Highway 168. The infamous Big Dry Creek
Canal, which I've written about a number of times above, crosses
this highway as a creek. In fact, there are crossings for Dry Creek, Little Dry
Creek, and Big
Dry Creek. (In early 2016 I wrote a complete report on these
This morning I did my
normal "long canal" walk from Villa to Barstow and back,
with a trip down the Helm Canal to the west. I saw an unusual bird
which I think may be some species of kingfisher. He was sitting on the concrete abutment where the Helm
Canal disappears toward the Highway 168 freeway. This canal is
virtually dry, and a week or so ago there were four large, dead fish
among the garbage that is caught where the water runs into the tunnel. They
are all gone, and I couldn't help but wonder if my feathered friend
had taken advantage of a free buffet. I saw him later, landing in a
tree where the Helm crosses Big Dry Creek Canal.
By the Villa Avenue
bridge, where the Dry Creek Canal is lined with concrete, three boys
were riding their bikes down the bank and up the other side,
"getting air" on the exit. I had seen boys skateboarding
All the canal sections in
this area are mostly dry, with a little trickle in the Dry Creek
near Helm. The Helm is choked with dry, dead plants which were
growing in the water when it flowed.
Update 12/1/15: Today I walked on the section of the Dry
Creek Canal that runs south from Barstow, then turns west toward
Willow. I like to walk down on one side of he canal and back on the
other. The last time I walked there, the dirt on the west bank was
chewed up and loose, making it hard to walk on. I vowed not to go
there again till we had a few good rainstorms to help pack the dirt
down. We've had quite a bit of rain, and the surface is about 80% of
what I'd like, but we need more big rains, preferably with a
steamroller going down the bank afterward. The opposite side has
always been nice and solid.
This walk is only a
little over a mile, so I walked north from Barstow and out the Helm
Canal as far as Sylmar, to get in a longer walk.
There was quite a bit of
water in the Dry Creek, which has been mostly dry for a few months.
Most and probably all this water is coming from a gated opening on
the west side, near the big flood
basin. I'm 90% sure the water was
being pumped out of the basin. I could even see where the water
level in the basin had been slightly higher very recently.
Update 2/1/16: I tried a previously unexplored section of the
Dry Creek Canal bank today, starting on Herndon Avenue near
Minnewawa, where the canal goes southwest behind the Clovis
Cemetery. This facility puts plastic flowers on most of the graves,
creating a colorful
Past the cemetery, there
are homes on the west side all the way. On the east there is an RV
sales and repair lot, auto repair, and other similar businesses.
Past this there is some new home construction, the Sierra Crossing
development, which I've also seen walking in from the east on Spud's
The canal crosses Sierra
Avenue at Randy Avenue. Beyond here it is fenced off, but a walker
can cross the Sierra
Avenue bridge and return on the opposite side, which is my usual
practice - up one side and back on the other.
At the construction site,
two men were taking down the orange plastic fence along the side of
the property next to the canal, and a
cement truck and crane were pouring concrete foundations.
This walk was a little
shorter than I would have liked, about 1.3 miles. I could have
extended it by walking on sidewalks, which I like to avoid. I
considered crossing Herndon and going north along the bank to the
John Wright Station, then down the Old Town Trail to Herndon again,
but it's a very busy six lane road, and I walk slow, so I abandoned
that idea as quickly as it formed.
Update 3/14/16: The most dramatic event since my last entry
was the observation of a brand
new shopping cart in the canal. The only other carts I've seen
in Clovis have been smashed and bent.
Beside the Clovis Dry
Creek Trail, but definitely canal-related, is a place where water is
pumped into the canal FROM
the east. Three feet away water is pumped out through an outlet
TO the east. There's still enough left to create a good flow down
the canal. There's been water in Dry Creek for about two weeks,
but it's impossible to say how much comes from the actual creek and
how much is pumped in from various flood basins. We've had lots of
rain October to January, and lots more since March 1. The creeks in
the foothills are running
The geese seem to like
this - they have returned to the flood basins and other grassy
areas, although not in the large numbers that are usually seen.
Update 4/19/16: Today walking the Dry Creek and Helm
Canal banks, I spotted about a dozen tiny toads,
barely an inch long. They were mostly hopping out of the grass on
the side of the bank away from the canal, and going toward the
water. I saw this phenomenon once before several years ago, although the first time
there we hundreds of them crossing the bank, requiring care to keep
from stepping on them.
Update 8/2/16: I got a late start for a walk on the banks of
the Dry Creek and Helm Canals, after a weekend in Las Vegas and the
long drive home. It was hot in the house and hot in the car at 8:30.
When I got out of the car I felt a nice breeze, then couldn't find
it again until one short segment of the walk. Overall it was just
too hot, so I ended up cutting it short, going only 1.5 mile.
Throughout the summer and
including today I have noticed a very good flow of water in the Dry
Creek Canal. Not sure where it comes from, but it must relate to the
good rainfall we had this year.
The best part of the walk
was a number of orange dragonflies along one section. There were
bottle brush bushes in bloom, so perhaps the plants or a bug they
attract drew the little flyers.
12/14/16: Since the Enterprise Trail parallels the Enterprise
Canal throughout its entire distance, this update also appears on
I walked today on the Enterprise Trail, for the first
time in at least a year or two. From the Dry Creek Trailhead at Shepherd
and Sunnyside, the Dry Creek Trail to the south appears to be the
only available trail. But a little cross-country travel takes you to
the Enterprise Trail, less than a quarter mile away to the east. In
fact, it's a stretch to call it "cross country," since it
just involves crossing Sunnyside Avenue and walking on the bank of
the Enterprise Canal to where the official trail starts.
here the trail follows the canal for at least a couple of miles,
although I have never been to the end of it. I walk it so rarely I
don't have an "official" turnaround spot like I do with
most "in and out" trails, so today I turned back when I
felt I had walked "half of enough."
first thing I noticed while walking on the canal bank was that the
banks and the bottom of the canal had been graded. Then I realized
there was a new cement lining on the south side of the canal for a
considerable distance. This probably has something to do with the
fact that a section of this canal bank collapsed
in May of 2016, sending thousands of gallons of water into nearby
neighborhoods. Burrowing ground squirrels were blamed, and indeed, I
have seen large holes and dirt piles on canal and trail banks all
around Fresno and Clovis. The new concrete and the grading of the
opposite bank should keep the little creatures under control for a
the other hand, the new bank work ends after about a mile, so who
know what lies in store? The local irrigation district does inspect
the canal banks on a regular basis, but with over 400 miles of
canals, it's possible to miss things or not get to them in a timely
manner. i DID see a couple of ground squirrels busily working on the
could not say for sure, but it also appeared that the bank on the
north side, where I was walking, had been made a little higher than
it used to be. The canal was dry, and the soil in the bottom of the
section that had not been repaired had cracked into large, moss-covered
change I noticed was near the place where I turned back. The last
time I was there a big tract of land south of the canal was being
graded and streets laid out. Now most of the lots have large houses
on them, a fence hides much of it from view, and another bit of
countryside is gone forever.
I was there for hiking, not to study hydro issues or real estate
development. I went at mid-day, and we had been having a spell
of above average warm weather, so it was very pleasant. I arrived at the trailhead wearing a
long sleeve t-shirt with a sweat shirt. I decided to leave the top
layer behind, and within a short time, I was glad I did. There was a
slight breeze in my face on the outward trip, but I never felt cold,
and the wind was at my back on the return trip.
east on the canal bank I had some views of the Sierra
of the range is blocked by trees and houses, but at one point I
could see a fairly nice section, with a brilliant white topping of
turned back, I thought maybe I had not gone quite a mile, but it
turned out my total walk was 2.33 miles.
2/121/7: Although it used to be one of my regular routes, I now
rarely walk the section of the Dry Creek Canal that runs generally
southwest from Barstow Avenue near Sylmar to Willow Avenue halfway
between Shaw and Barstow. There are several reasons, the main one
being that the soil on parts of the bank is loose and sandy, and
uncomfortable to walk on. Another significant reason is that the
round trip is only 1.13 miles, and I don't feel like extending it in
either direction to get in my normal two-plus miles.
I walked it today I found a few new things, although the sandy bank
was as bad as ever, despite having been soaked with over ten inches
of rain this season. The rainfall means that the canal is running
big, since much of the water comes from seasonal foothill creeks. Of
course, with around 150 flood basins, hundreds of pumps, and many
miles of piping, the flood control district can increase or decrease
the flow at any time.
one place along the bank a homeowner whose back yard is next to the
hotel has run a hose over his fence, across the bank and into the
channel, probably to pump out water from his back yard (or maybe
empty a swimming pool?) Since this was an amateur operation, the
hose actually ends right on top of the bank, a few feet from the
edge, and and the water flow has washed out a nice little
that's seen all over town now is that the Canada geese are back, in
this case in a flood basin on the east side of the canal not far
from Willow. As always, the canal bank is covered with various
plants, with a few of them in bloom.
Update 3/14/17: I
rarely walk on the canal banks any more, and write about it even
less. The canal is more or less a long, narrow garbage dump; and the
scenery leaves a lot to be desired. The Clovis Trails are much more
But once in a
while when I don't feel like driving as far as my regular trailhead,
I go to where the Dry Creek Canal crosses Villa Avenue, just a
little more than half a mile from home. I walk southwest on the
bank, turn right where the Helm Canal crosses under Dry Creek, walk
down to the dead end where a fence blocks the view and much of the
sound from Freeway 168, then back to the Dry Creek, down to Barstow
Avenue, and back to my car on the easterly side of the canal.
posted photos of the
vegetation that virtually fills this section of the Helm Canal,
and I've contemplated how much water is being wasted on weeds, when
it should be flowing somewhere to irrigate crops. Today I was glad
to see that the weeds and muck from the canal bottom have been
dredged out and piled up on the bank. This is common practice every
so often throughout the canal system. After the dirt pile has been
allowed to dry out (sometimes for a couple of years), trucks and
front loaders are brought in and the dirt is hauled away, to where I
When I saw the
big dirt pile, on the south side of the canal, I was not sure I
would be able to follow my usual practice of walking down one side
and back on the other. Once I got to the turnaround point, I found
that there was room to walk between the pile and the edge of the
bank, although in some places it was fairly narrow. When I got to
the last 100 feet or so, the bank was wet, muddy and slippery -
indicting to me that this section had been dug out in the last day
or two. It was also very tight against the weeds and other stuff
growing at the edge of the bank, but I made it through with nothing
worse than a pound or so of mud in the tread of my tennis shoes.
the way it was like looking at an archeological dig - sticking out
from the dirt were many artifacts, some not recognizable. They
include lots of plastic cups, paper trash of all kinds, pieces of
metal, some of it totally covered in rust, a CD case, chunks of a
tree that had been cut up and thrown in the canal about two years
ago, an old canning jar, and sticks and boards of various sizes. Who
knows, maybe Jimmy Hoffa is under there somewhere.
wet spot was slippery enough to be a little dangerous, so I won't be
walking there soon. In fact, I'll probably check it out in a couple
of months to see if they have begun to remove the debris.
5/20/17: Today was my first walk on the canal bank since March.
I was surprised to note that the dirt that had been cleaned out and
piled on the south bank of the Helm Canal had been removed. Most of
the time in the past dirt piles have been left for a long time, as
much as two or three years. On the other hand, the dirt piles on the
north side, which have been there at least three or four years, are
grass-like plant with white flowers that grew in the water of the
canal, and covered much of its surface, is making a slight comeback
along the edges. It will be interesting to see how this spreads over
the next few years.
are quite a few other flowers, mostly what city-dwellers would
consider weeds. The most common, and most attractive is a plant
about two feet high that has a lot of yellow flowers about an inch
long and a half inch wide. They have a resemblance to snapdragons.
Update 11/26/17: I've taken my older great grandson Colton
times this fall, so I wanted to do something with his younger
brother Jack. At age three, Jack is not ready for one-on-one camping
with me, and is not a hiker, so I decided on a walk along the canal
bank near my house. I picked him up around 9:30 the morning of
November 26 and we drove to where the Dry Creek Canal crosses Villa
Avenue. From here I normally walk southwest along the canal bank,
then go west on the Helm Canal to where it disappears under the
freeway, and back along the opposite side of both canals, a total
hike of about 1.7 miles. Of course, walking with Jack is not an
exercise walk, and I knew we would not cover that much distance.
soon as we got on the bank he saw water and rocks, and if you know
anything about kids you know that throwing
rocks into water is an important part of developing their motor
skills. So it was five minutes before we moved past that point. He
was quite interested in the stuff people throw in the canal, which I
discussed when the first version of this page was posted several
years ago. We saw a wooden kitchen chair, a tire, and that
post-Halloween favorite, a pumpkin. Of course there was plenty of
uninteresting trash - bottles, cans, food wrappers, and chunks of
in our walk he saw a dead millipede and he asked what it was. To our
great good fortune, a few minutes later we saw a live
one, the first one I've ever seen on the Clovis trails or
canals. He was fascinated with the creature and watched it for
several minutes as it made its way to the dry grass at the edge of
the canal bank. I had seen a lot of ducks a few weeks earlier, so we
were hoping they would still be there, but the water was very low in
the Dry Creek and non-existent in the Helm, so the millipede was the
only wildlife we saw.
continued on to where the
goes through a pipe under the Dry Creek Canal. Objects of interest
here included a complex of several tanks, valve and switches
surrounded by a metal cage. There are also some
valves right at the canal crossing that he could touch, though
of course they are locked to prevent them from being turned by
the east side, the canal runs beside Letterman
for several hundred yards, and as soon as Jack spotted the
playground equipment, that became our ultimate destination.
Update 12/1/17: A few days later I did my full walk along
these canals. It immediately became obvious that Jack and I were a
week too early. I saw a duck and about a dozen geese. Water was
flowing into the canal through one of the gates. And across the
flood basin in the city yard, a scoop loader was putting what looked
like yard trash into the back of a garbage truck. I also saw
something I'd never seen before, a rolled up sleeping bag and an
unidentified spiky thing in the water. Jack might have found these
two items interesting, but the other stuff would have made a great
outing into a perfect one.