Dos Rios State Park: “A new era of water management.”

Julie Rentner and Patrick Koepele have spent decades of their lives dedicated to healing nature through the restoration of rivers, Rentner with River Partners and Koepele with the Tuolmne River Trust. Wednesday, June 12, the entire state of California celebrated one of the greatest outcomes of their labors with the opening of Dos Rios State Park, at the confluence of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne Rivers, just west of Modesto.

Rentner and Koepele weren’t the only people responsible for Dos Rios, of course. Opening a state park, especially in difficult times like these, requires a host of willing participants and the labors of Hercules. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, the Lyons family of Mapes Ranch, former Assemblyman Adam Gray, native American coalitions, and a host of other entities were involved in bringing Dos Rios State Park to reality.

Nonetheless, Rentner and Koepele are the people who’ve stuck with river restoration and recovery for literally decades. They’ve stayed on task through seasons of drought, seasons of flood, and tumultuous eras of political change. They’ve endured.

Julie Rentner, Dos Rios State Park, 12 June, 2024
Julie Rentner, Dos Rios State Park, 12 June, 2024

Rentner’s message as the new park opened in a region with a historic shortage of parks where people can enjoy the cooling shade of riparian forests and living rivers was that, “We are in a new era of water management.”

This new era represents a paradigm shift in our understanding of water and its role in public life. Restoration of rivers, wetlands and riparian forests provides multiple public benefits, including flood control, groundwater recharge, recreation, carbon sequestration, and refuge for native plants and animals.

Patrick Koepele, Dos Rios State Park, 12 June, 2024
Patrick Koepele, Dos Rios State Park, 12 June, 2024

Rentner lauded the role of the adjacent San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge in the recovery of the formerly endangered Aleutian Cackling Goose, which has increased from a population of 600 individuals to over 200,000, almost all of which winter in the San Joaquin Valley on refuge property and land protected by conservation easements.

Dos Rios State Park expands the refuge’s role in providing habitat for threatened species like the Riparian Brush Rabbit, Least Bell’s Vireo and Swainson’s Hawk, while providing  amenities for recreational uses like hiking, biking, boating and birding.

Patrick Koepele emphasized the role of the Tuolumne River in connecting people through a network of interdependence and mutuality. The Tuolumne provides life-giving water from the high Sierra down through the Valley and on to the residents of San Francisco while also helping sustain San Joaquin Delta ecology and fisheries. It is literally the life blood for millions of people and countless plants and animals.

Children at Dos Rios State Park, 12 June, 2024
Dos Rios State Park, 12 June, 2024

One of the most significant moments during the celebration was when a group of children were given symbolic keys to the park as they promised to continue the work of preserving and protecting the Valley’s natural heritage. As we move into a new and challenging era of climate change, including rising threats from fires and floods, future security will depend on wise management of the rivers that have placed our Valley and our nation among the world’s great natural wonders.

There may be no better legacy than leaving the world you know a better place than you found it.  Julie Rentner and Patrick Koepele already have just such a legacy, and they’re not anywhere near finished.


Eric Caine
Eric Caine
Eric Caine formerly taught in the Humanities Department at Merced College. He was an original Community Columnist at the Modesto Bee, and wrote for The Bee for over twelve years.
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  1. This is a wonderful development, and I look forward to visiting the park. I’d love to see parks in the valley along all the major Sierra rivers as they flow through the valley like the American River Parkway from Folsom to the Sacramento River.

    • From your lips to the ears of whoever needs to hear it. The American River Parkway is spectacular. I have often imagined how it would benefit our quality of life and the health of our rivers if the Stanislaus and Tuolumne had similar parkways and riparian space. La Grange to Dos Rios would be dynamic for Modesto, Ceres, Empire and Waterford.

  2. It was a nice day to have the opening. Beautiful location for a state park even though the state paid over $20 million for this location.

  3. I agree that this is a wonderful development for connecting protected riparian corridors, water management, access to recreational and educational resources and a host of other reasons.
    I did choke a little bit on the statement about an area with “a shortage of parks” given that the California State Parks have completely abandoned Turlock State Recreation area. Since their abandonment, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of vandalism have destroyed valuable existing infrastructure, and access to this public land has been denied for months, if not years. A Hall of Shame performance by the California State Parks, in an area that has a shortage of parks.


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