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Outdoor report: The drought continues, but spring recreation opportunities still abound

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Wickiup Reservoir is about 50% full. Water will soon be released for irrigation and Spotted Frogs. DeHarpport photo

By ROB DEHARPPORT/For The Herald  —    Spring has arrived. Oregonians and especially anglers are well aware of this for a number of reasons:

 1.  We are seeing some nice sunny days.
 2.  We have mountain snowstorms expected in the next few days.
 3.  Days are getting longer.
 4.  As of today, opening day of fishing season is only three weeks away. April 22nd. Who’s counting?
 5.  Flowers are blooming, lawns need mowing, etc.
 6.  The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway partially opened two days ago.
Crescent Lake remains at near natural level. DeHarpport photo

The Opening of the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway on Wednesday is likely one of the earliest in recent memory. The road is entirely free of snow through the first 21 miles to the South Century Drive Junction ( Road 46). Cascade Lakes Highway is gated at this Junction as crews work to remove snowdrifts on the northern section towards Mount Bachelor, Elk Lake and many other lakes.

I would expect the entire road to be open in the near future due to low winter snow packs and the amount that has melted off in recent weeks. Beware and be safe. Many side roads still have enough snow to lure the careless and unwary into deeper snowdrifts.  However, it won’t be long before all forest roads are snow free.

Cascades are still short of snow

Davis Lake has recovered a little from being not more than a dry lake bed with a Creek last Fall. It’s sure to be the same again this Fall. DeHarpport photo
After a few serious snowstorms in December and early January, we have had essentially nothing that added to the 48″ amount that we had here at Crescent Lake. Unfortunately, the celebration of a drought ending winter was short lived. The drought continues… It is evident throughout the western states from California, Nevada and Utah, up through Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. Looking back seven years ago, we had even less snow. In the seven years I’ve lived up here at Crescent, we’ve had only two “normal” snow years.
Recently, Crater Lake snow measured only 44″.  This is down from a long-term average reading of 120″ for this time of year.

Our western breadbasket is at risk

Farmers in California’s historically productive Central Valley are suffering through continued water wars. Add to this, the farmers in the drought and litigation weary Klamath Basin. Between the drought, litigation and governmental ineptness, our breadbasket and food crops are hurting.
Additionally, many lakes near and far will see low water levels again. From Lake Powell to Crescent Lake to Wickiup Reservoir, etc., what was once “normal” once again continues to elude. La Nina, as predicted, had little impact along our Highway 58 corridor and beyond. The storms generally stayed far to our north with a few to the south.

Another heightened fire season could be in store

Low Lake levels continue to make launching a boat challenging at Crescent Lake. Secondary low water ramps will soon be clear of snow as will Beach launching at Tranquil Cove. DeHarpport photo

Facts are facts.  It looks like another challenging water season at many area lakes. With that fact comes  another potentially dangerous fire season. There have already been a couple of 30 acre fires near the northern California towns of Weaverville and Portola.  As we move into Spring, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Center in Medford recently issued a year to date rain year summary and fire safety message.

It’s not all gloom and doom. We still live in a beautiful area with countless outdoor opportunities. Up here at Crescent Lake I hear the constant cry of “there is no water!” at Crescent Lake. Wrong. There is plenty of water, we just have more beach! Crescent Lake remains at nearly the natural level of the lake. It is the same as it was before it was designated as water storage with improvements to the dam in the early 1980s. Outdoor lovers adapt.  We adjust to these changes as well as we can. As they say- get outside and enjoy! Make lemonade out of lemons!

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