Drought doesn’t dampen local recreation opportunities in western Nevada County | TheUnion.com

Drought doesn’t dampen local recreation opportunities in western Nevada County

Despite a state drought, water levels remain at nearly 100 percent capacity at Englebright Lake, to the delight of boaters this holiday weekend.
Submitted by Laura Petersen |

Despite a drought ravaged state, area lakes are seeing a healthy recreation surge.

While the state’s largest reservoirs are dipping alarmingly close to historic lows and strict mandatory water conservation is now the norm, reservoirs in Nevada County are faring better than most this holiday weekend, drawing huge crowds of recreationists.

“Right now we’re a lot busier than normal. We’re one of the few still with water,” said Matt Holliday, Gate House employee at Rollins Lake’s Long Ravine Resort.

Now into his second summer at Long Ravine, Holliday has seen an increase in recreation traffic funneling into the resort because of poor boating opportunities at other regional lakes like Folsom and Oroville.

On Aug. 20, Lake Oroville State Recreation Area closed its last launch paved ramp at Bidwell Canyon because of dropping water levels. Drought conditions have closed boat ramps at Clear Lake and several campsites throughout the state.

Water supplies in California’s three largest reservoirs — Trinity Lake, Lake Oroville and Lake Shasta — are roughly at 30 percent capacity, close to the record lows reached in 1977, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Meanwhile, boaters are funneling into Nevada County looking for water.

“This whole summer we’ve been booked out nearly every weekend,” said Holliday of the resort with 82 campsites. Just days before Labor Day Weekend, the NID reservoir fed by Sierra snowmelt on the Bear River was at 75 percent of capacity.

“We’re getting hundreds and hundreds each weekend,” Holliday said. Rollins Lake tends to attract motorized ski boats and jet skis. The water is warm at 70 degrees, with some bass fishing.

Some days are so busy, Holliday has had to send boaters to the other side of the lake. On Wednesday, Holliday was answering dozens of calls from boaters asking about lake levels.

He recommends arriving before 11 a.m. this weekend to launch. The resort is open from sunrise to sunset.

Collins Lake remains open with plenty of boating opportunities, despite a water level down 40 feet. This weekend, PG&E cautioned they will release increased water flows for whitewater recreation in the Rock Creek Reach of the North Fork Feather River in Plumas County.

Fed by the North Fork of the Yuba River, Bullards Bar Reservoir, billed as the “Premiere houseboat Rental Destination in California” is 100 percent “boatable” despite declined attendance generated in part by rumors circulating that the lake was closed.

“We get a lot of rumors that there’s no water in the lake but it’s not true,” said Daniel Robertson, manager at the lake’s Emerald Cove Marina.

At 47 percent of capacity, the lake’s Marina boat launch is closed but Dark Day paved launch remains open all year long. While some campsites require hiking in, shoreline camping is available. Fishing remains good for spotted bass, trout and kokanee.

The lake is always open with no fee to park or launch.

“The lake is open any time you want,” said Robertson.

At Englebright Lake, houseboats quietly bobbed on the surface of the clear water.

“We are full at 97 percent. We’re always full. Always, always, always,” said Lisa Rogers, who for the past five years has owned Skipper Cove Marina on the lake with her husband Nick Rogers.

Fed by the South Fork Yuba River and cold releases from Bullards Bar, the 9- to 11-mile long lake was created in 1941 for the primary purpose of trapping sediment from anticipated hydraulic mining operations in the Yuba River watershed.

Managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the lake is now 76 degrees with visitors catching rainbow trout, German browns, Kokanee, small, large-mouthed and spotted bass. Boaters have a choice of two ramps located off of Mooney Flat Road. Only boat-in camping is available.

“We’re anticipating a tremendous weekend. The more the merrier,” said Rogers.

Contact freelance writer Laura Petersen at 913-3067 or laurapetersen310@gmail.com.

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