Wild and Scenic River: Merced River

Sections of California’s Merced River were added to the Wild and Scenic River System at two separate times, November 2, 1987 and October 23, 1992. The designated sections include  the Red Peak Fork, Merced Peak Fork, Triple Peak Fork, and Lyle Fork, from their sources in Yosemite National Park to Lake McClure; and the South Fork from its source in Yosemite National Park to the confluence with the main stem. A total of 122.5 miles of the Merced River are designated under the Wild and Scenic River System. 71 miles are designated as Wild, 16 miles are Scenic, and 35.5 miles are Recreational. No Water No Life visited the Merced River in Yosemite National Park during the fifth California Drought Spotlight Expedition in 2016. For more information about NWNL’s California Drought Spotlight please visit our Spotlights page.  For more information about the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act read the first part of this blog series. Here are a few pictures of the Merced River from the 2016 expedition taken by NWNL Director Alison Jones.

Jones_160927_CA_5991Sign marking the Jan 2, 1997 flood level of Merced River in Yosemite National Park
Jones_160927_CA_5996View of the Merced River in Yosemite Valley from Sentinel Bridge
Jones_160927_CA_6088Sign explaining Merced River’s early name “River of Mercy” in Yosemite Valley
Jones_160927_CA_6002View of Merced River in Yosemite National Park with Half-Dome in the background




All photos © Alison M. Jones.

Amboseli Wetlands

by Pongpol Adireksarn for No Water No Life
Edited by Alison Jones, NWNL Director

Amboseli Wetlands 1.jpg

Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest and most well-known mountain. The Maasai call it “Ol Dolnyo Oibor” (The White Mountain) because of its snow-capped top, a symbolic landmark for centuries. Besides being picturesque, Kilimanjaro has lived up to its reputation as “The Life-giving Mountain.” It has provided water for millions of wildlife, people and their livestock in a semi-desert area with less than 340 mm [13.3 in] of rainfall annually. Amboseli National Park, a popular Kenyan safari destination, lies below the lower northern shoulders of this “Rooftop of Africa.”

In 1991 an effort began to conserve the biodiversity of Amboseli; support development of local human populations; and improve the park’s infrastructure. UNESCO and the Government of Kenya designated Amboseli National Park and its surrounding area as a “Man and the Biosphere Reserve.”

[Editor’s Note: The Man and the Biosphere Programme is an intergovernmental, scientific program launched in 1971 by UNESCO. Using science, education and economics, this program establishes benefits to human communities while safeguarding surrounding ecosystems and wildlife. Its World Network of Biosphere Reserves currently counts 669 sites in 120 countries]

Amboseli Elephant 1.jpg

On a 2005 visit to Amboseli, I saw the toll climate change is taking on Kilimanjaro: the alarming sight of less snow on the mountaintop. My most recent visit in October 2017 was disheartening. From a distance I saw only a small area of snow remaining on top of Kilimanjaro. I recalled the assessment that Kilimanjaro has lost 80 % of its snow cover since 1912; and that by 2033 the snows of Kilimanjaro would no longer exist.

Amboseli Great White Pelican.jpg

I drove deeper into the park, remembering that 12 years ago I saw a mirage of water everywhere I looked. However the mirage I saw on this drive started to disappear. Instead, what I saw before me were wide wetlands filled with water on both sides of the road. As I continued on, there were bulldozers and heavy equipment dredging these wetlands and laying large concrete pipes on both sides of the road. My local guide explained that the park is expanding the wetlands by filling existing swamps with more of the water that flows down from Kilimanjaro via underground channels.

Amboseli Elephant 3.jpg

This development fulfills the objectives set for Amboseli National Park by the Man and the Biosphere Programme. In a land of world-famous elephant matriarchs, this program is creating biodiversity havens to benefit wildlife in the immediate area of the park, while also supporting Maasai and their livestock living near the park.

Amboseli Hippo 1.jpg

The next morning, passing through an arid area with Kilimanjaro in the background, I saw a large herd of elephants walking towards the wetlands to drink and bathe. An hour later as I went closer to a wetlands, I saw several elephants and ungulates enjoying their time in the swamp. More wildlife arrived at the wetlands as the day continued. A family of hippopotamus occasionally left the swamp to graze, Hundreds of great white pelicans, winter migrants from Eastern Europe, were enjoying pleasant weather on an island in the swamp under sunny skies.

Amboseli Elephant 4.jpg

My local guide took me to Observation Hill, overlooking the vast Amboseli wetlands. As we walked up the hill, I noticed two large signs put up by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). One sign coined two apt phrases, “Kilimanjaro, The Life-Giving Mountain,” and “Without Kilimanjaro, Many Lives would Cease!” The other sign read, “Where Life Springs Up In A Desert.” Addressing national – and indeed global – issues, it noted, “While many wetlands in Kenya dwindle and lose biodiversity because of destructive and unchecked human activities, this protected oasis will remain a source of life. Only if man does not adversely affect it.”


Pongpol Adireksarn was born in Bangkok, Thailand, and received a Bachelor Degree in International Relations from Lehigh University, USA, and a Master Degree in the same field from American University, USA. Elected four times as a Member of Parliament from Saraburi Province, he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Tourism and Sports, Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Minister of Education, and Deputy Prime Minister. Pongpol wrote several novels in Thai and English using his real name and the pen name “Paul Adirex”.  In the past nine years, Pongpol has been producer and host of a television documentary program on world heritage sites which has led him to many national parks and wildlife reserves all over the world, prompting him to become seriously interested in wildlife threatened species.
All photos © Pongpol Adireksarn.

Foiled !

Today I tried to go to the Shiloh Indian Mounds in TN and the Holcut Memorial in MS (dedicated to a town submerged in the 80’s when the Feds constructed the Tennessee- Tombigbee Waterway). This is what I saw at both places:


It’s the same shut gate I’ve seen on this month’s expedition at Great Smoky Mountain Nat’l Park, Wheeler Nat’l Park, Lookout Mtn Nat’l Park, etc.  Let’s hope this shutdown is resolved soon and I can get in to document Dale Hollow Nat’l Fish Hatchery, Big South Fork Nat’l River Area, Oak Ridge Nat’l Lab (for interview on climate change), the Land between the Lakes Nat’l Recreation Area, Shawnee Nat’l Forest, Cincinnati’s EPA Cluster Lab on Water Technology, et al.

Our National Parks, historic Parks, River Areas, and national Labs are probably more extensive and significant than most of us ever realize. On this expedition – with so many barriers up – I am overwhelmed by how much we take them for granted and what we lose when we don’t have them.

On top of old Smoky…

Elevation 5046' - Smoky Mountain N P  - NWNL Mississippi River Basin expedition 2013
NWNL Mississippi River Basin Expedition 2013 – Smoky Mountain National Park, Elevation 5046′

White Nile River Basin Exp. – Murchison Falls NP

Welcome to #8 in a series of blogs written by Alison Jones before her departure to Uganda and Kenya as NWNL’s lead photographer. Updated 4/11: to revise park description.

Aerial view of Murchison Falls, Uganda

Date: Mon–Tues, 5–6 April 2010 /Entry 8
Reporter: Alison M. Jones
Location: Murchison Falls National Park

The last of the six national parks to be visited on this expedition is the 556 sq mi (1,442 sq km) Kidepo Valley National Park, with its views of Mt Morungule, home of the resettled Ik tribe. This park (elev 2998 ft, 914 m) is located on the Sudanese border. It is comprised of savannah landscapes ending in the rugged horizon formed by Mountain Forest. Along its Lorupei, Narus and Kidepo Rivers, there are whistling thorn and white barked acacias, as well as acacia geradi forests and kopjes – quite typical of arid areas of Kenya and Tanzania. Its huge latitudinal range, and thus climate variety, accommodates a high diversity of flora as well as fauna. Carnivores here include lion, bat-ear fox, striped hyena, aardwolf, caracal, cheetah and hunting dog. Ungulates include the lesser and greater kudu, reedbuck, klipspringer, bright gazelle, Rothschild giraffe and oribi, and kavirondo bush baby. The tree-climbing lions are found in Narus Valley. There are 58 birds of prey in this park.

This park is known for its giant kigelia trees, wide sand rivers, unusual fox kestrels and fascinating walks. We will also visit the Kanangorok Hot Springs, located 11 km from Kidepo River, and part of the volcanic system of Lotuke Mountain, which NWNL will photograph from across the border in Sudan. The Karamajong manyattas and kraals just outside the park will offer interesting cultural perspectives.

From the field: Aerial documentation along the shores of Lake Albert, en route to Murchison, revealed sites of oil exploration on fan deltas (approximately 25 on L. Albert) and a hydro-power site at Tonya Falls on the lake’s eastern escarpment. Neither the details of Uganda’s Oil Production Agreement, means of transporting the oil, nor the selected extraction companies have been announced. This secrecy has led to many rumors in the press. Hopes are that the expected oil income will be put towards food, healthcare, education and energy, rather than rumored purchases of fighter jets for a quarter of a billion dollars. On April 11, 2010, President Museveni noted Uganda’s need to focus on electricity and infrastructure: “Political clashing has blocked us [on developing electricity and infrastructure]. That is why we ended up setting up the Energy Fund now, and now we are moving on building the dams without losing time.”

Murchison Falls defines the northernmost tip of Africa’s Western Rift Valley, a 1,864 mile (3,000 km) tectonic trench between here and Lake Malawi. It has been “opened” for the last 12 million years. The park itself is defined by its abundance of borassus palms, oribi, Jackson’s hartebeest and Rothschild giraffes. A boat trip up to Murchison Falls offered incredible photo ops of migratory and resident birds, Nile crocodiles (a species older than hominids) and hippos.

The ephemeral Yamsika River empties into the final reaches of the Victoria Nile and local people believe that their small gods lived here at the confluence, where pied kingfishers now nest in holes in the soft stone cliffs. Crocodiles and fish eagles congregate under the falls to gather fish mutilated by their plunge here 141 ft down into the Western Rift Valley.

Both below and from above the falls one can see the river’s natural “pollution” in the form of foam clusters moving with the current. These islands of bubbles are created by the action of minerals and sediments that are carried over the falls and become a nutrient rich froth nourishing riverine fish and wildlife.