By Mollie Behn, CWC Education Coordinator

“Where does the river start?” I ask.

“At the Santa Cruz Boardwalk” responds one of the youth.

To those that have lived at the river mouth all their lives, it does seem that way, but it’s not actually the case.

The headwaters of the San Lorenzo River, or its origin, are up near Castle Rock State Park. The water meanders pass state parks, redwood forests, mountain homes, urban commercial buildings all the way to the Monterey Bay. Standing only at the river mouth, it’s hard to comprehend the distance and scope of where the river travels.

Youth that participate in CWC’s summer camp programs live near the mouth of the San Lorenzo River. While each day they’re lucky enough to get a glimpse of the river from their home, on their walk or drive home from school, the headwaters of the river are a distant concept. Exploration of maps allow youth to see the full path of the river, but to experience firsthand its ebbs and flows through various environments allows us to see how the river health is both impacted and improved by the places it flows past.

This summer, CWC brought youth to discover the full extent of the San Lorenzo River watershed. Campers fished and boated in Loch Lomond Reservoir, now better understanding how water is stored in a local reservoir. Riding a train via the Roaring Camp Railroad train from Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to Henry Cowell State Park enlightened us to the various natural and urban environments the river flows through. Gazing upon the river from Ocean View Park allowed us to see where the river meets the Bay.

The 50 youth grades 3rd – 8th that joined CWC this summer have an increased understanding of how a watershed works, greater appreciation for the complexity of the ecosystem and, perhaps most importantly, these youth have built their own personal connections with these places. While their own river journey started at the river mouth, we know, it hasn’t ended there.

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