Hundreds of families are expected to gather Saturday for the second annual SalmonFest at Lost Lake Recreation Area.
It’s a celebration of the San Joaquin River and the collaborative efforts to return salmon to the water, said Steve Thao of Trout Unlimited.
Before Friant Dam was completed in 1944, the river roared north of Fresno and was home to a flourishing Chinook salmon run, with the fish numbering as high as 15,000, according to Thao.
“We’re the fish people,” Thao said. “We want to bring back salmon. Seventy years ago, the river was much larger, steamboats used to reach all the way up into the Delta and the salmon were in abundance. But the dam changed the river and killed the population.”
But in 2009, the dam began releasing more water as part of a settlement to ensure an uninterrupted, year-round flow to parts of the river that had turned mostly dry. With the water, came the return of the salmon.
SalmonFest highlights these efforts while educating families about the importance of the San Joaquin River. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, families can enjoy canoe rides and fly casting and tying lessons, all for free, along with live music and arts and crafts for youths.
The lone cost is a $5 fee to get into Lost Lake Recreation Area.
Unlike last year’s event, no salmon will be released into the river Saturday because of the water’s warmer than average temperatures. Still, some salmon will be on display in large tanks as park rangers discuss the efforts to revitalize the fish population.
“We want to to celebrate the river and have families experience its beauty,” Thao said. “You need to experience it to know how great it can be.”
Starting at 10 a.m. the Run by the River 5K also will take place on the banks of the San Joaquin, with proceeds benefiting the Fresno County Boys & Girls Club.