Monday, May 16, 2016

Reservoirs and kayaker fortunes finally rise again

BEFORE: Rolling down the hill to launch at Rattlesnake Bar last October.
AFTER: Fishing boat at about the same spot, March 18

Our long-term drought may not be over yet.... 

But these days, the view from a kayak looks pretty good around Northern California. Consider this before-and-after comparison at Folsom Lake Recreation Area's Rattlesnake Bar. 

It was just last October 30 that NorCal Yak pal Dale and I drove to the launch
BEFORE: A weedy wonderland
Penryn, as Folsom was shrinking to historic low levels. Dale had scouted the area on foot and swore there was enough water to float us about six miles down to Granite Bay. 

But after we walked our kayaks a country mile down a steep hill, made our way through thick brush that towered over our heads, repelled our yaks down a small cliff, and then crossed a wide beach to reach the water, I shoulda known better. Apparently, I was completely unencumbered by the thought process.

Let’s just say that for the rest of that day, there was more mud-slinging than in a Republican presidential debate.

BEFORE: The "creek" was barely ankle deep in places....
AFTER: Water, water everywhere, and most welcome
BEFORE: Paddling in October more like a long hike
Now turn the calendar to March 18, and back at Rattlesnake Bar.

Not only was the boat launch gate open, the floating dock was….actually floating. Another 25 yards or so out, at about the same spot where we had gone downhill (in every sense) less than five months earlier, an angler sat peacefully in his aluminum fishing boat. Behind him stretched a glistening stretch of water nearly half a mile wide, and plenty deep.
AFTER: Rapids just four miles upstream in March
Since then, a couple more trips to Rattlesnake Bar have proven even more impressive. To put it into statistical context, the reservoir elevation was about 353 feet at the end of last October.

By my return paddle in mid-March, it had risen 100 feet. And more recently, it's risen to about 453 feet.

In fact, a wildflower tour a few weeks back was kind of disappointing -- because many patches of lupine were under water, though the California poppies cast a sunny glow across the hillsides. And there were small but picturesque waterfalls that had only been rock piles for the past couple of years.
Spring waterfalls trickle down poppy-covered hillsides

Wildflower season has pretty much peaked, but with the reservoir levels still rising slightly, Rattlesnake Bar should be a good paddling destination for at least a few more months. Go early in the day, before winds and heat build up.

Even without the wildflowers, there are some strange and interesting granite rock formations to enjoy. Plus they're drought-tolerant.


If you missed this spring's lupine bloom around Rattlesnake Bar in the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, link to these photos from a drier spring, plus driving directions and other details. 

© 2016 Glenn Brank