Drought won't dampen Memorial Day river fun

  • Janet Slyter of Santa Rosa feeds a friendly duck at Johnson's Beach in Guerneville on Tuesday.

Clare Harris read a history book about Israel and napped Tuesday inside the deserted beer and snack shack at the Guerneville beach that's been in his family since 1967.

Natalie Cole's rendition of the song "Unforgettable" played over a radio, the music interrupted by the occasional psst-psst of an air compressor. Outside the shack, an employee of Harris' inflated more than 100 inner tubes for the coming Memorial Day weekend.

"It's good to have a beach. We're a resort town," said Harris, 94.

Guerneville Preps For Memorial Day Weekend


Harris has a few more days to relax before Johnson's Beach and other Russian River hot spots fill up with beach-goers, boaters and swimmers. The good news: There appears to be enough water in the river for people to get their fun on.

"It's going to be perfect for canoeing and for the fish," said Brad Sherwood, a spokesman for the Sonoma County Water Agency.

The unofficial holiday kickoff to summer arrives, however, as government officials, growers and others scramble to deal with historic drought conditions.

Less supply in Russian River system has regulators preparing to limit diversions by agricultural users above Healdsburg and into Mendocino County for the first time since 1977. The conditions already led to a fishing ban on the river earlier this year, and curtailed some events, including the May 3 Great Russian River Race in Healdsburg.

Oregon resident Stephanie Kabella looked out at the river near Johnson's Beach Tuesday and said it looked "sad" to her because the water appeared to be so shallow.

But Sherwood insisted that the lower river is flowing as much as it has in recent years.

"We're looking at the same conditions that we faced the last two summers, in terms of flow on the river," he said.

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