Save Del Puerto Canyon's Main Goals
1. Stop the funding and construction of Del Puerto Reservoir.
2. Move forward with pre-existing plans for a multi-use recreation area where the reservoir would be built.
3. Hold agencies and developers more accountable for the negative effects their plans may have on local communities.
Nestled among the rolling hills of Northern California’s Diablo Range, along the western edge of the San Joaquin Valley, lies the narrow entrance to a unique canyon long known for its geological, biological, archaeological and paleontological significance. (See this area in Google Maps)
Del Puerto Canyon was named by Spanish explorers conducting their first inland traverse of the Central Valley en route to the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1700s. They described the narrow rock opening in the mountain to the canyon beyond as, “Del Puerto,” meaning the doorway/entryway in Spanish. After entering through that historic gateway where Del Puerto Creek emerges, the first of Del Puerto Canyon’s intimate valleys opens up and an idea of the canyon’s scale can be sensed. Flanked by steep rolling hills and colorful wildflowers in the spring, the first few miles of Del Puerto Canyon are among state’s most intriguing landscapes. There are bobcat and mountain lion sightings, one of the west’s largest golden eagle populations, remnant evidence of the endangered San Joaquin Kit Fox and Burrowing Owls, and badgers, among others.
The creation of the right of way through the canyon following the demise of the magnesite mining literally paved the way for modern day recreation in Del Puerto Canyon. The canyons of the Diablo Range had already been a popular destination for trappers and hunters, but with the development of the automobile, Del Puerto Canyon became the perfect destination for day trippers from Patterson going into the canyon for picnics. To this day the 100 year old road grade is still used for recreational and educational access through the canyon. Frank Raines Park, Deer Creek OHV access, and the Minnear Day Use Area are popular recreational destinations established deeper in the canyon, but the first few miles of canyon have been historically associated with folks enjoying hikes and picnics by the creek.
Given this continual use for recreation, the first few miles of Del Puerto Canyon have featured in the City of Patterson’s history since its founding. Destruction of this area with the creation of a dam and consequent inundation of the biological, geological, and archaeological resources would be a serious loss to the residents of Patterson, Stanislaus County and the state of California if the Del Puerto Water District goes through with its plans.
Del Puerto Reservoir
Recently, Del Puerto Water District and San Joaquin Valley Exchange Contractors Water Authority moved forward with plans to build an 800 acre reservoir at the entrance of Del Puerto Canyon. The purpose of this reservoir would be to hold water pumped from the Delta Mendota Canal for sale to various agricultural outfits, including some far away from Patterson. The footprint of the reservoir and satellite construction would cover 5 miles of the canyon, destroying notable sites like The Gateway and Graffiti and Owl Rocks. Its location also conflicts with existing plans for a multi-use recreation area proposed by the Patterson Parks Comission that would have provided local greenspace access. Some residents are also concerned about flood risks. The main dams, roughly 260 and 150 ft. high, and saddle dams would be built in an area some call one of the fastest eroding areas in California with several active landslides. While providing local flood control is one of the project's promises, some who have taken a second look have noted that it's presence may slightly elevate those risks for some nearby residents. In response to a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club, California Native Plant Society, Friends of the River and the Center for Biological Diversity, a judge vacated the project's Environmental Impact Report in November 2022. The lawsuit and appeals process are ongoing. After submitting a revised EIR, backers of DPR still have to raise milions in funding to acquire the land and finance the construction. The fight is still on!