Historic Tulare Lake Reappears in California After Disappearing in 1898 

Source: Facebook/California Department Of Water Resources

A lake located in San Joaquin Valley in California that disappeared in the late 1800s has reportedly reappeared. The culturally and historically significant lake reportedly vanished in 1898.

Lake Used To Be One Of The Largest Bodies Of Freshwater In The U.S.

The lake, which is named “Tulare Lake”, reportedly used to be “the largest body of freshwater west of the Mississippi River.” Its reappearance marks the first time that it has been seen in over 130 years.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Trace Fleeman Garcia

The reappearance of this lake is a major highlight for the natural landscape overall. More specifically, though, it is a historic moment for the indigenous communities within the area. The natural landscape The local tribe of Tachi Yokut referred to the lake as “Pa’ashi”, which means “big water.”

This Was Not The Lake’s First Disappearing-Reappearing Act

This apparently was not the first time in history that the same lake disappeared and then reappeared later again within the same location. Vivian Underhill, who used to be a postdoctoral research student at Northeastern University, studied the history of this lake extensively.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Underhill concluded that the lake returned multiple times over the past century before disappearing again. According to Underhill, “it happened in the ’80s”, “once in the ’60s”, and “a couple of times in the ’30s.”

Most Mainstream Coverage ‘Focused On What The Lake Has Flooded’

Underhill believes that the mainstream coverage of the occurrence is not necessarily focused on the bigger picture. She emphasized the property and personal losses experienced in addition to ecological and cultural impact.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

According to Underhill, mainstream media had an opposite objective. “Most mainstream media coverage… has focused on what the lake has flooded.” Underhill specifically referenced “farm equipment, crops, dairies, and homes.”

Recognizing Lake’s Integral Role Could ‘Remake Mainstream Senses Of The Valley’

Underhill further explained that recognizing Tulare Lake as “central to this landscape’s ecosystem would remake mainstream senses of the valley.” She also believes that it could “heal the Central Valley’s relationship with water.”

Source: Wikimedia Commons/MODIS Land Rapid Response Team

Underhill added that it would serve as efficient water storage and flood protection. It would also provide a “profound new turn in ecological restoration.”

Why Did The Tulare Lake Disappear In The First Place?

It may seem a bit mysterious how a body of water can just vanish like the Tulare Lake has done on multiple occasions over the past century. However, studies have proven that its disappearance was caused by land reclamation efforts hosted by the state.

Source: Pixabay

The state of California specifically focused on converting indigenous and public lands into private farmland. This process reportedly required the lake to be drained to irrigate arid lands in the surrounding area.

Analyzing The Long-Term Impact Of Draining A Lake For Irrigation Purposes

Once the water is drained from the lake, it has a lasting impact on the surrounding ecosystem. Further studies have shown that this process fundamentally alters the landscape and overall ecology of the area.

Source: Pixabay/Couleur

Underhill referred to this type of major transformation as a “deeply settler colonial project.” Like most colonial projects of U.S. history, it also has a lasting yet unwelcomed impact on natural habitats and Indigenous communities.

Atmospheric Rivers Over State Triggered Resurgence Of Lake

Multiple reports claim that a collection of atmospheric rivers over the state of California in 2023 is to blame for the reappearance of this lake. Those rivers reportedly flooded the region.

Source: Pixabay/Jurgen

There have been studies conducted on these rivers that conclude their economic damage triples the projected losses when compared to standalone events. These findings reportedly surpassed initial expectations.

What Exactly Are ‘Atmospheric Rivers’ In California?

The phrase “atmospheric rivers” may confuse a lot of people, especially those who may not be familiar with the advanced elements of the water cycle. These are elongated regions that are typically referred to as “rivers in the sky.”

Source: Pixabay/Guentherlig

Their primary duty is to transport a substantial amount of water vapor outside the tropic area. Most people do not realize that the strength of each river varies.

How Much Water Can Atmospheric Rivers Carry?

The amount of water that an atmospheric river is able to carry and transport depends on the strength. As mentioned, the strength varies depending on the river.

Source: Pixabay/Rony Michaud

For instance, the average river is able to carry enough water vapor to nearly match the flow of the Mississippi River at the mouth of that body of water. However, with extreme cases, studies have proven that atmospheric rivers can transport a maximum of 15 times the average amount.

What Happens Once The Atmospheric River Reaches Land?

Upon landfall, the water that is being transported within the atmospheric rivers is released into the environment. The exact method of precipitation used when it is released varies, depending on climate conditions.

Source: Pixabay/Dim Houixaa

For instance, the moisture could be released as snow or rain within the same area. According to confirmed studies, atmospheric rivers have contributed over half of California’s annual precipitation.

Reappearance Of Tulare Lake Causes Other Social And Environmental Changes

The recent return of this disappearing & reappearing lake has reportedly brought along quite a few social and environmental changes as well. For instance, there has been an associated cooling of local temperatures in the area as a result of its reemergence.

Source: Pixabay

In addition, the area has experienced an increase in diverse wildlife finding new homes for their growing families. This reportedly includes specific species that were originally considered imperiled or vulnerable.

Loss Of Lake Was A ‘Major Issue’ With Bird Diversity And Conservation

Underhill indicated that the lake used to be part of what is known as the “Pacific Flyway.” The Pacific Flyway plays an integral role as a key stopover area for birds as they migrate.

Source: Pixabay/Joe

According to Underhill, the loss of that particular habitat was “a major issue in bird conservation and bird diversity.” She went on to say that what amazes her the most is that the birds “know how to find the lake again” when it reappears. She added that “it’sixaa like they’re always looking for it.”

Return Of Tulare Lake Revitalizes Indigenous Community

The return of Tulare Lake has reportedly been a cornerstone of the revitalization of the nearby Indigenous community. One report shows that it had a profound impact on the cultural and spiritual appreciation of this body of water within the Tachi Yokut tribe.

Source: Pixabay/Daniel

The Yokuts were historically unique among the other California natives since they were divided into true, unique tribes. Each tribe had its own language, name, and marked territory.

The Yokuts Enjoyed Life Near California Valleys For Centuries

The Yokuts reportedly enjoyed life within the California valleys for many centuries. They found life there to be peaceful and pleasant.

Source: Pixabay/Joe

This particular tribe of seed-gatherers did not farm at all before the days of Christopher Columbus. They hunted rabbits, deer, prairie dogs, and other small birds and mammals. They also ate acorns, roots, berries, and wild plants. 

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Sally Reed

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