Learn More About the Stanislaus River

The Stanislaus River was a remarkable and unique place in the West – one that catalyzed major, innovative campaigns in the 1970s and 1980s to save it from being flooded by the New Melones Dam. Despite this outpouring of support, the waters of the dam flooded the river in the mid-1980s, destroying one of the most popular recreation resources in the U.S. and an ecological treasure. But the story of the Stanislaus and what came out of the campaigns lives beyond the devastation wrought by the reservoir.

Here’s a quick overview some of the most iconic images and documents, (you can also find these by choosing the Keyword “Special Portfolio” in Advanced Search).

In the next generation of this web site, we’re going to tell you that story – we think you’ll be impressed and energized by what happened on the Stanislaus, and what it led to afterwards.

But you can learn more right now, using the following resources:

GIS Data

Learn here about easy to use Google Earth GIS data about the river and its rapids, camps, and other features.


Stanislaus – Struggle for a River (1982, Tim Palmer) – This pioneering book recounts the campaigns to save the Stanislaus and all the people and groups involved in them, along with the river’s natural and human history. Download this book (38mb PDF).

A Guide to Three Rivers -Tuolumne, Stanislaus and South Fork American (1981, John Cassidy et al for Friends of the River) – The first guidebook to the three main whitewater rivers of the middle Sierra Foothills in California – it has extensive river and geological detail, along with natural history, all mile by mile.  Download this book (27mb PDF).

NOTE: The above two PDF downloads are scanned image files and do not allow full text search. We will be posting the full text versions soon.

The Stanislaus River Mile by Mile (1981) – a detailed description of the river’s features, mile by mile, prepared by Carol Nelson and also used for the A Guide to Three Rivers. Download this document (18mb PDF)

Interpretive Guide to the America, Stanislaus and Tuolumne Rivers (1975) – a self-published booklet with details about the geology and cultural history of the Stanislaus, plus the American and Tuolumne Rivers, prepared by Bob Center, with Robert “Sarge” Preston and others. Download this document (11mb PDF).

The Personification of Natural Waterscapes (2017) – an academic thesis by Dakota Goodman reviewing the history of Friends of the River.  Download this document (2mb PDF)

Wild and Scenic Rivers – An American Legacy (2017, Tim Palmer – published on the 50th anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act), and available from: https://www.amazon.com/Wild-Scenic-Rivers-American-Legacy/dp/0870718975


Small Things – a 12 minute video about what it felt like to be on the Stanislaus and to fight to save it, created by Larry Orman in 2019, from a mid-1980s three-projector slide show, with narration and music.

Parrott’s Ferry is the Limit – an 18 minute film used as a centerpiece in the later stages of the campaigns to save the Stanislaus, created by Don Briggs for Friends of the River in 1981 – view it on StanislausRiver.org.

Trailer for the proposed movie, “Last River Lost” – 8 minute film, produced by Christian Kallen, 2009 – view it on You TubeLearn more about this project and how to provide financial support.

The Stanislaus River Museum

The Stanislaus River Museum is an impressive collection of printed materials about the Stanislaus River, created and housed by Martin Blake of Sonora, California.  Contact information coming soon. You can browse some of the “notebook” items from Martin’s collection here.


Friends of the River (FOR) – California’s pre-eminent river advocacy organization, born out of the Stanislaus campaigns and active all over the state. Join now and support FOR!  www.friendsoftheriver.org

American Rivers – the national river conservation organization, working in many states and at the federal level to safeguard wild rivers and restore rivers for their ecological and recreational uses:  www.americanrivers.org