Sunday, July 13, 2014

How to find good summer paddling in a drought

Either there's an iceberg ahead, or some Lake Valley campers got carried away with s'mores

California kayakers looking for the best inland lakes this summer may feel like they’re marching across the proverbial desert – there’s a watering hole 50 miles away, but how dry will it be when they get there? Fortunately, the Web can help paddlers determine if the water is worth the drive.

Case in point : Lake Valley Reservoir, a small but picturesque Sierra lake near Yuba Gap,

close to I-80. The drive is an hour plus change from Sacramento, even with my pal “Leadfoot” at the wheel. (Ever pass a Porsche in a Honda Fit loaded with two sea kayaks – going uphill?)
But I digress. As a PG&E hydropower source, Lake Valley levels can drop like a rock as the

Paddling and playing in the Lake Valley "forest"  
mercury climbs. So when a group of NorCal Yak pals scheduled a weekend paddle, I checked reservoir data from the state Department of Water Resources.  There are a couple of hundred lakes at this link.
Current online data for Lake Valley showed about 6,500 acre feet, compared to a peak of about 7,000 a.f. a month ago – not bad with our dry conditions. And the lake's level was about average for July. So hit it, Leadfoot. (And note the Highway Patrol likes this stretch of I-80 too.)
Now to paint a picture by the numbers. Lake Valley sparkled clear and cool this past weekend. You could barely tell the water level was down. On the far shore, a youth camp geared up with canoes, canopies and an inflated “climbing wall” that looked like a giant s’more oozing into the waterline.
Lake Valley is dotted with stumps and moss-laden dead trees. They present an eerily sculptural effect, not to mention an interesting obstacle course for paddlers. This proved to be an excellent summer outing. There's a concrete launch ramp and beach launch area at the Silver Tip Picnic Area, but parking is limited, so get there early. Day use vehicle fee is $5.  

There’s still good summer paddling at other places as well. Check online for a daily reservoir storage summary, plus similar info in a graphic format. For river info, trip, try Dreamflows, an excellent non-government site.

© Glenn Brank 2014