ContentsPutah and Cache: Lake Solano

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Solano Diversion Dam

Robert Thayer

In California and around the arid Western U.S., it can be hard to determine the true extent of any impounded stream. Here, using the weirs and gates of the Solano Diversion Dam, the Solano County Water Agency and Solano Irrigation District divert the majority of Putah Creek's summer flow into the smooth, concrete Putah South Canal, which provides irrigation for Solano County's agriculture and urban development. One might say that the "watershed" of Putah Creek extends well into Solano County. Hundreds of similar structures dot the foothills of California. After years of disputes, an accord has been reached on how to balance Solano County needs against habitat and recreation needs along the creek. There is potential to demonstrate for the rest of the state how to operate water impoundments and diversions for the most sustainable, long term benefit for all parties involved, human and otherwise.

Solano "Lake" is the small reservoir backed up by the diversion dam. In the absence of the creek's normal flushing flows, aquatic weed (Hydrilla) has begun to choke the waters. Birders say that this is among the region's best spots for observing waterfowl. You might see cormorants, herons, osprey, numerous ducks, egrets, grebes, and even eagles on rare occasions. Lake Solano County Park rents paddle boats, and the local fly fishermen help steward the rainbow and brown trout plying the lake's waters.

Route 128 winds upstream through Putah Canyon, past several creek access points favored by trout fisherman from near and far. White alder (Alnus rhombifolia) begins to appear in Putah Canyon's riparian environment.

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Craig McNamara
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Cold Canyon