Month: September 2022

Sunday, check out a free film festival starring the LA River

Check out FoLAR‘s free evening of LA River fun and film at River Fest 2022 on Sunday, 5 p.m.-9 p.m., celebrating LA River’s deep connection to art, environmental justice, community health, and climate adaptation. This open-air festival will be hosted at the scenic LA State Historic Park, bringing together the best of LA’s food truck scene, environmental films (on a 45-foot screen) and booths.

Check out this year’s Duck Stamp Art Contest entries. Live-stream judging begins Friday

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)

Join us at the quack of dawn for the 2022 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest! 🦆

Whose art will help raise tens of millions of dollars for wildlife conservation? Join us for this free streaming event on Sept. 23 and 24 to find out!

Take a gander at this year’s artwork:

Every Duck Stamp sold contributes directly to habitat conservation that supports migratory birds and other wildlife. Put your stamp on conservation:

How to stay safe in the wilderness

The beginnings of the East Fire on Aug. 25 (Credit Jim Burns)

As regular readers of this blog know, I had a scare several weeks ago when I hiked back down from a local stream to the parking lot here in Southern California — plumes of smoke rose about a quarter mile down the road. A narrow bridge connects this parking lot to the also narrow main road. 

I raced to get in my car and get out as fast as I could. Only a couple of years ago, another fire, the Bobcat, decimated a nearby fishing stream I’ve gone to for some 30 years. 

As I passed the intensely hot fire, still small, I asked a couple watching it burn if they had “called it in,” meaning contacted 911. They said, “No signal.” My cell didn’t have a signal either and it wasn’t until I’d drive about 10 miles down the canyon that I got one. By that point, green forest service trucks with the lights and sirens flashing were making their way up to the fire. 

That one has been put out, but I saw in the news another has just started basically in the same mountainous, very dry brush area.

A friend of mine recently said, “After all the fires of the last few years, we all have PTSD when it comes to flames and smoke.”

I never thought of it in that way, but I’ll tell you my heart was racing as I drove over the parking lot bridge, worried for myself and the hikers still somewhere on the trail.  

As I passed the first green Forest Service emergency vehicle on the way down, I wondered who had called 911 – and how?

For answers, I turned to the Trout Unlimited Trout Community Forum, which includes many dedicated and knowledgeable anglers from around the country. I include some of their responses below.

By far the forum’s most popular company that gives fly fishers the ability to contact the outside world in case of an emergency is Garmin. This Swiss-based company began by providing consumers with GPS for autos in 1989, a market that largely dried up with the advent of the IPhone.

Today, the company offers lots of tech for everyone, including gear that gives bicyclists emergency “crash detection” if they have an accident and need help, motorcyclists a reason to not use their cellphones on the road, truck drivers cozy headphones and runners a smarter screen on their sports watches.

For fly fishers and those who enjoy the wilderness out of cell range, Garmin offers peace of mind, as commenter Jeff Greenberg wrote on the forum:

“Can only echo previous comments regarding the Garmin InReach. We bought ours after my wife had a run-in with a rattlesnake on a hiking trail in Arizona and she carries is with her when she hikes.”

Closer to home, Tim Huckaby wrote a harrowing rescue story about a juvenile rattlesnake bite during this year’s annual trip of the San Diego Fly Fishers to the Upper Kern. With the help from two Garmin InReach devices, a young man was helicoptered to a hospital and is alive today.

Garmin offers different models, all lightweight and compact. The main feature of the InReach is its emergency SOS, if you need help, but there is also a track back feature, in case you get lost, as well as different levels of battery life, which can be important for back-country fishers who will be off grid for an extended period. The company the battery life will last for two weeks.

Although reasonable for some, others complained the Garmin is too expensive – The Mini is about $400 with plans ranging from $11.95 a month for the Safety plan, $24.95 for Recreation and $49.95 for the Expedition.  

A relative newcomer to the two-way satellite space is SPOT X, which has stepped up its game since 2007, when, according to Switchback Travel, they were made famous (or infamous) early on for their implication in accidental SOS calls and non-emergent rescue initiations. The device offers rescue services and messaging to your contact list over satellite. The cheapest plan is $11.95, with Spot Gen 4 costing $170. It’s battery life, according to the company, is 240 hours.

“You can also send a text for help in a non-life-threatening situation such as a vehicle breakdown,” wrote Rob Murthiah on the forum. “SPOT has insurance and will come retrieve you or your vehicle in most places in the world.”

Cellphones are the great business disrupters of our age and I’m sure both Garmin and SPOT execs are wondering how the new IPhone 14 will affect sales to wilderness lovers.

The latest IPhone release includes two-way emergency satellite communication, with the caveat that you need to point the phone at the satellite to get a connection. Apple also includes location tracking date for free the first two years.

According to its release notes, the average emergency message takes less than 15 seconds to send, if you have a clear view of the sky. The user holds the phone in the air, and it finds a satellite so you can communicate with rescuers and share your location.

The price, including trade-in of your old phone, is $799, off contract, and before trade in, which will bring it under $500.

Also, on the horizon, T-Mobile and Starlink are joining up to offer emergency text communication through its satellite network.

Another forum user is a CB radio operator and reminded us that a vhf/uhf is also an option, if the area you’re in has radio coverage. Also, remember that ham operators need a license.

My brush with that wildfire convinced me to invest in one of these systems and I’m thinking seriously about SPOT.

One forum user, however, remained unconvinced, even in the face of all of this new tech. “Sticking with smoke signals,” he wrote.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

LA Waterkeeper slates annual fundraiser for Sept. 24

Saturday, Sept. 24 at 5 p.m. at Making Waves, LA Waterkeeper’s annual fundraising gala, at Paradise Cove Beach Cafe, Malibu.

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the passing of the Clean Water Act. They will celebrate this monumental legislation and how the organization uses it to advocate for healthy, vibrant waterways and sustainable, equitable, and climate-smart water supplies for all Angelenos.

Entertainment features award-winning funk musician Ollie Gabriel,  late-night comedian Heather Pasternak, and multi-genre artist DJ Amara

Individual tickets are $500.  

Algae bloom hits Mammoth’s Crowley Lake just ahead of Labor Day

If you are going north for the long weekend, take note.

For Immediate Release: Contact: Blair Robertson – Public Information Officer August 29, 2022

SACRAMENTO – The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board (Water Boards) are urging fisherman and recreational users to stay out of the water at Crowley Lake located in Mono County. Localized areas of the lake were tested to confirm that the lake is being impacted by Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). The lake is posted with a recreational advisory of “DANGER” to alert lake users of the elevated risk. Recreators are encouraged to follow the below guidance until further notice.


  • Stay out of the water until further notice, including watercraft.
  • Do not let pets and other animals drink or go into the water, or go near the scum.
  • Stay away from scum, and cloudy or discolored water.
  • Do not eat fish or shellfish from this water.

• Do not use this water for drinking or cooking. Boiling or filtering will not make the water safe.

A volunteer citizen monitoring partner noticed visual observations of a potential bloom while sampling during the Labor Day Pre-Holiday Assessment at Crowley Lake. Sample results confirmed toxins present at danger level thresholds in a sample collected from the marina area. Caution level toxins were present at a second sample collected near the Hilton Creek drainage.

Note that cyanobacteria, a group of organisms that form harmful algal blooms, can produce potent toxins. Health risks are associated with HABs as they produce dermatoxins that can cause skin inflammation, which can cause itching skin and rashes, as well as gastrointestinal distress, headaches, agitation and weakness, or abnormal breathing if HAB material is swallowed while swimming. Dogs and children are most susceptible to exposure because of their smaller body size, increased potential to swallow water while swimming, and tendency to stay in the water longer. If you suspect exposure, wash your children and dog immediately. Due to the size and toxicity of the bloom with increasing temperatures and decreased precipitation this time of year, the bloom may proliferate and alter its potential to produce toxins.

The bloom occurring in the lake appears suspended on the water’s surface. Bloom conditions can change rapidly, as the winds and waves move or concentrate the bloom into different regions of the lake. In some areas, the bloom may concentrate and form a film or scum on the water surface. The color of the water may also appear discolored as bright or dark green and brown.

The Water Boards will provide regular updates to inform the community when postings are removed on the California HAB Reports Web Map.

The Water Boards recommend that people practice healthy water habits while enjoying the outdoors this summer at your local lake, river or stream:

  • Heed all instructions on posted advisories if present
  • Avoid algae and scum in the water and on the shore
  • Keep an eye on children and pets
  • If you think a harmful algal bloom or toxic algal mats are present, do not let pets and other animals go into or drink the water or eat scum/algal mats on the shore
  • Don’t drink the water or use it for cooking
  • Wash yourself, your family and your pets with clean water after water play
  • If you catch fish, throw away guts and clean fillets with tap water or bottled water before cooking
  • Avoid eating shellfish if you think a harmful algal bloom is present Get medical treatment immediately if you think that you, your pet, or livestock has gotten sick after going in the water. Be sure to alert the medical professional to the possible contact with cyanobacteria. Also, make sure to contact the local county public health department. To report a bloom, do one of the following:

• Fill out the Bloom Report form on the HABs Portal:

  • Email:
  • Call the HABs hotline: 1-844-729-6466 (toll free)
  • Contact your County Public Health Office For more information about HABs, please visit: California Harmful Algal Blooms Portal California Department of Public Health Resource Page