Paddling Through the Heart of California with Brendan Borrell


California’s latest drought was finally broken in the winter of 2022, when a string of atmospheric rivers dumped fifty-two feet of snow in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Soon, Los Angeles-based writer Brendan Borrell, learned that the historic Tulare Lake was coming back to life.

Brendan had long heard stories of a vast and unparalleled wetlands that once existed in the water-starved San Joaquin Valley — long before it was dyked, dammed, and taken over to industrial agriculture. Once the largest body of water in the west, Tulare Lake had steelhead trout in its waters, while the surrounding grasslands were home to beaver, Tule Elk, and Grizzly bear.

Packing two weeks of food and supplies, he and adventure photographer Tom Fowlks, took pedal-powered kayaks more than 230 miles through flooded farmland and forests along the Kings and San Joaquin Rivers from Tulare Lake to the delta region of the San Francisco Bay. They witnessed the devastation of the floods, including multi-million dollar almond plantations that were now nothing but tax write-offs, but they also saw the unheralded natural beauty of the valley, including the squawking rookeries of egrets and cormorants.

Brendan’s story about the trip was published in the October issue of Outside magazine. During his program, he will present photos and video from the harrowing trip and tell the timely and important story of the history of water in the San Joaquin Valley — and its future.
Journalist and author Brendan Borrell has long explored the intersection of science, health, and the natural world through articles appearing in The Atlantic, Bloomberg BusinessweekNational Geographic, the New York Times, and Outside magazine, where serves as a correspondent. A native of Texas, Brendan trained as a biologist before turning to journalism and has also published more than a dozen peer-reviewed scientific articles on frogs, snakes, and insects.


This program was organized by Phoebe Piper #1244.