Drought has dropped Clear Lake to its lowest level in 37 years, forcing the closure of several public boat ramps and triggering shallow-water warnings at several others.
Three of six boat launching lanes at Redbud Park in Clearlake and the single ramp at Clear Lake State Park have been closed entirely. People with deep-hulled boats are cautioned to avoid or be careful at other ramps.
“People are disappointed. We had 30 to 45 (boat owners) who would come on a busy weekend,” said Jen Ayala, a ranger at Clear Lake State Park.
But the week-old ramp closures reportedly have not yet affected boating or tourism at the nearly 44,000-acre lake, good news for a county that suffers from high unemployment. In fact, the three-year drought has made Clear Lake more appealing because many other California lakes are in considerably worse shape.
“We still have high visitation. People are still coming to the lake to recreate,” Ayala said.
There are still plenty of other boat launching areas around the lake. The ramps at Lakeport’s Library Park and Clearlake Oaks and two launch lanes in Clearlake currently have no restrictions, county officials said.
And while the lake is lower than normal, it is exceptionally clear, beautiful and inviting, county officials said.
“It was gorgeous” last weekend on the lake, said Scott De Leon, Lake County’s director of water resources. The weeds and algae that plagued the lake earlier in the summer have for the most part died off and disappeared, he said.
“The water is just flat and smooth and gorgeous,” said Melissa Fulton, head of the Lake County Chamber of Commerce whose Lakeport office has views of the lake. Compared with other lakes in the drought-stricken state, Clear Lake is in great shape, she said.
She said there were plenty of opportunities for boaters beyond Labor Day weekend.
All four of the county’s boat launch areas are open, but boaters should use most of them with caution, said Carolyn Purdy, who works for the county parks department.
While the Clearlake Oaks ramp is in good shape, “the other county ramps are becoming a hazard. We’re telling people to use caution on most ramps,” Purdy said.
They will all be in danger of closing if the lake level continues to drop, she said.
Clear Lake on Thursday was at .04 feet on the Rumsey gauge, a shoreline water mark based on a rock formation. That’s the lowest it has been since 1977, when the lake level fell to a record minus 3.39 feet on the Rumsey gauge, said De Leon. Between 1977 and now, the lowest lake level was .32 feet, measured in December 1990, he said.
If the drought continues, the lake level could drop near record lows. But De Leon and others are betting on a break in the weather.
“I’m optimistic we’re going to start seeing some rain,” he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or glenda.anderson@press democrat.com. On Twitter @MendoReporter.