There are Greater Dangers Lurking In The Ocean Than Sharks

Sharks are scary to us. That goes without saying. Whether this is due to "Jaws" is kind of a chicken and egg question. But the fact is: Ocean swimming is somewhat frightening because of potential shark attacks.

However, here's some good news for you. According to a new study from Stanford, shark attacks along the California coast are extremely low:

[D]espite increasing records of shark attacks - mostly by white sharks - in California, the individual attack risk has dropped by more than 91 percent during the past six decades.

How does this contradiction work? Scientists point out that human population is expanding, and there are now more ocean areas open for people to swim. If you have more people in the water, you're going to have more attacks. But the likelihood of being attacked is still super low.

In fact, to drill the point home, the research goes through a handful of other ocean activities that are way more dangerous than sharks: Scuba divers are 6,897 times more likely to be hospitalized due to decompression sickness, and ocean swimmers are 1,817 times more likely to drown.

The best way to avoid a shark attack is, obviously, to swim when they're not around. Scientists recommend avoiding the coast of Mendocino between October and November because it is the riskiest time and place for shark attacks. And if you're between L.A. and San Diego, you can drastically lower the risk by swimming in March.

But the main takeaway is: If you're heading out to swim, surf, or scuba, avoid other potential risks rather than fret over the unlikely event of a shark taking a bite out of you.

5 of Ventura County's Best Coastal Campgrounds

This guide is part of KCET's California Coastal Trail project, which looks at the state's massive undertaking to build a trail over 1,000 miles in length along its whole coastline.

Though small, Ventura County boasts quite a bit of undeveloped coastline with camping opportunities dotted alongside. The only trouble is that railroad tracks, the 101 Freeway, or the Pacific Coast Highway (and sometimes all three) run right next to what might be your digs for the night. Enduring that will allow enjoyment of this very fine section of Southern California coast.

Note: We've tried to feature only campgrounds with the best coastal sights, sounds, and smells. Many of those places are state-owned because the parks system boasts so much of California's best seaside real estate.

Not surprisingly, the beaches are among the busiest parks in the state. Reservations can be made up to seven months in advance through Book as soon as possible because many sites get snagged the day they become available. Cancellations can also free up previously booked sites, so watch for that. Thanks to, images of just about every individual site are available online, letting you choose a spot in the shade of a sycamore with just the right view. Unless otherwise stated, sites permit both tents and RVs or trailers. Some companies deliver RVs directly to campgrounds, making it possible to enjoy a road hotel without the need to pilot one on the highway; rental information can be found on most state park websites.

California State Parks Turning Off Showers

After a long grueling day of hiking, setting up your tent, and building a fire, there's nothing quite like heading over to the bathroom and washing the dust away with a hot shower. But with the ongoing historic drought ravaging California, many state parks and state beaches are turning off the spigot.

According to series of reports, a wide range of state beaches are turning off their showers in order to do their small part to conserve water. This is in response to Governor Jerry Brown's mandate for the parks department to reduce water consumption by 25 percent.

How big of an impact does this have? Each visitor uses an estimated 25 gallons of water per overnight (to be fair, that's still less than the 100 gallons that people use at home per day). With that in mind, the state will save an estimated 8 million gallons of water by turning off the showers.

So if you're heading to camp or to the beach this summer, be prepared to forgo the luxury of taking a shower to wash off that dust or sand. But you know what? That's fine! That's the beauty of the outdoors. If you need to wash off, just jump in the river, lake, or ocean!

A Look at California's Newest National Monument

Last week, President Obama signed an executive order creating three new national monuments in the country. It adds up to over one million acres that cannot be purchased by private hands. And roughly one-third of that acreage is located in Northern California.

Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument constitutes 330,780 acres inside of the Mendocino National Forest, north of the San Francisco Bay Area. The land surrounds Lake Berryessa -- which is a man-made reservoir that has an abandoned town flooded at the bottom of it -- and elevation varies from sea level to 7,000 feet. As this quick primer details:

This biodiversity hot spot (mountain lions, Tule elk, and black bears, oh my!) has been home to Native Americans for more than 11,000 years.

For a whole lot more information about the new monument, head on over to the official website. In the meantime, here are a few more photos of the park for your viewing pleasure:

Yellowstone Parking Areas Shut Down Temporarily this Week

There are few things worse than planning a distant road trip, putting all of those miles on the car, finally getting to your destination, and realizing that some closure has put a kink in your entire plan. (For more about this, see: Clark Griswold and his family trip to Wally World.) That's why we feel it's important to bring you information about temporary parking lot closures coming to Yellowstone National Park.

Over the next three days, some choice parking lots will be closed for 24 hours at a time as construction crews perform paving-related tasks in order to breath new life into them. The closures are as follows:

Artist Point Parking Closure: 7 a.m. July 15th through 7 a.m. July 16th
Inspiration Point Parking Closure: 7 a.m. July 16th through 7 a.m. July 17th
Midway Geyser Parking Closure: 7 a.m. July 17th through 7 a.m. July 18th

The construction is part of a $3.2 million project given the bureaucratically-based moniker "National Park Service Intermountain Region Pavement Preservation Program." So far, parking lot construction at Old Faithful, Upper and Lower Geyser, Uncle Tom's, and Wapiti Lake is completed. Weather, of course, may change the scheduled closure dates, so give a call ahead if you're planning a trip over the next few days.

Hiking The Headwaters: Where The Sacramento Starts

On Mount Eddy | Photo: Chris Clarke

An explanatory series focusing on one of the most complex issues facing California: water sharing. And at its core is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta. Stay with for all the project's stories.

Finding the headwaters of the Sacramento River is an arbitrary exercise. Which of the main stem's many feeder tributaries is the true river? Which tiny creek's origin spring becomes the headwaters?

Decide the true river is the one that contributes the most water to the river below, and call those others merely feeder streams, and there's no contest: the main stem of the Sacramento River above Shasta Dam is the Pit River, which quintuples the Sacramento's flow where they join. That would put the Sacramento's headwaters in the Warner Mountains, east of Alturas. And by the same logic, the Mississippi River would rise at the headwaters of the Allegheny in northern Pennsylvania.

Choose the officially named main stem Sacramento River, and you still have a decision to make: which fork? Three forks pour off the east side of the Trinity Divide, to meet in the reservoir Lake Siskiyou near Mount Shasta City. The South and Middle forks are dotted with lakes that are relatively accessible by car. I chose to visit the headwaters of the North Fork: It's wilder, only accessible by hiking, and involves climbing the tallest California mountain no one's heard of.

Hiking the Headwaters: Finding Flow in the San Joaquin River High Country

Thousand Island Lake at the San Joaquin River headwaters | Photo: Sathish J/Flickr/Creative Commons License

An explanatory series focusing on one of the most complex issues facing California: water sharing. And at its core is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta. Stay with for all the project's stories.

Looking west from the outlet of Thousand Island Lake, Banner Peak looms in the distance creating a backdrop worthy of a postcard. The deep blue alpine water sparkles in the sun and is speckled with the tiny granite islands for which the lake is named. Brightly colored tents are scattered on the ridge overlooking the northern shore and hikers pass by on the nearby John Muir Trail.

From the Agnew Meadows Trailhead near Mammoth Lakes, I set out for a long day hike to Thousand Island Lake -- the headwater of the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River, a major watershed in California. Although the water has more of an impact on the sustainability of the environment and the people of the state, it's more famously known for its image, which was famously captured by Ansel Adams. The lake has even appeared on the label of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's Summerfest, a seasonal lager beer.

In this region the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which travels 2,650 miles from the Mexico-California border north to the Washington-Canada border, is also known as the High Trail. The route traverses the San Joaquin Ridge and offers unobstructed views across the river valley to the Minarets and Ritter Range, a small mountain range within the Sierra Nevada that is comprised of the craggy Minaret peaks, Mount Ritter and Banner Peak. The range divides the drainages of the Middle and North Fork of the San Joaquin River. From my vantage point on the trail I can see a number of smaller creek drainages that flow into the San Joaquin River.

The Innovative Spirit of Bay Delta Wine

Some of the most innovative wines come from California's Delta. | Photo: Angelo Amboldi/Flickr/Creative Commons License

An explanatory series focusing on one of the most complex issues facing California: water sharing. And at its core is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta. Stay with for all the project's stories.

Hear the phrase "California wine," and some may immediately think of the famed wine regions of Sonoma and Napa. The area not only holds the distinction of being the site of the state's first commercial winery (Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma was founded in 1857), but also produces some of the finest grapes around. However, saying that's all there is to California wine is like saying all you need to do to experience Los Angeles is to go to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In reality, there's a good case to be made that the Delta's wine-producing region is the most exciting in the state at the moment.

Please Don't Fly Drones Over Wildfires

With every new piece of technology, there comes a social etiquette learning curve, a time when we're all figuring out what to do with the new tech. When it came to Facebook, it was the process of learning what should and shouldn't be shared. (After our parents showed up on it, it was time to tweak that decision matrix a bit.)

The introduction of drone technology has opened the conversation up once again. What is appropriate, now that we have these new toys? Should we fly around tall buildings and peep into windows? Should we fly over highways, where drivers might get distracted? Should we fly our camera-laden drones over wildfires to get some amazing footage?

As far as that last question goes, here we have amazing visuals, many that can't be captured by cameras held by living, breathing humans. Isn't this, then, an ideal use for drone technology?

The answer is an unequivocal "No."

In Redding, the threat of drones over wildfires has gotten so bad that firefighters actually held a press conference to let people know that flying drones into wildfires is a bad idea, not to mention prohibited by the Federal Aviation Administration. Why all the fuss?

Two recent incidents in which drones were flying over wildfires forced firefighters to suspend aircraft operations on two fires in Southern California because of drones, said Yolanda Saldana, the forest service's aviation safety manager for California.

So, please: During this wildfire season, keep those new toys of yours out of the way.

California's Coastal Parks At 'High Risk' From Rising Seas

By this point, there's no question that climate change is forcing sea levels to rise. While it's important to figure out how to stop this, just as important is seeing what's going to be affected when all is said and done. What will we lose when the ocean tries to swallow us back up?

The National Park Service asked that question, not least because they have a whole lot of infrastructure hanging around near the ocean. And they found an answer.

The NPS took conservative estimates of how high the levels will rise (the number they used: one meter in the next 100 to 150 years) and figured out how many structural assets (roads, buildings, bridges, lighthouses, tunnels, etc.) they have located within that range of the ocean. After the numbers were crunched, they figured out how much they would lose over the next century-plus: $40 billion worth of park assets.

California's coastal parks are -- as you'd imagine, due to the proximity to the ocean -- at particularly high risk. In all, eight are predicted to suffer damage due to the rising sea levels. Here are the specifics:

Golden Gate National Recreational Area has the most assets at risk. Eighty-nine percent of its 1,049 assets are deemed "low" risk and 11% "high" with a "current replacement value" of $617.6 million. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park has 43% of its 49 assets at "high" risk with a value of $262.7 million. Five of the 17 assets at Fort Point National Historic Site are "high" risk ($191.2 million), as are 14% of Channel Islands National Park's 166 assets ($46.7 million). Point Reyes National Seashore has 4% of its assets at "high" risk ($34.9 million) as does Redwood National Park ($7.9 million).

It's worth noting that these are not all the parks that are at risk. A second study, featuring an additional 30 coastal parks, is currently underway.