The story of this summer’s prospects for rivers, rafting and trout fishing might sound like a yarn right out of the “Outdoors Department of Yer Eyes Ain’t Foolin’ Ya.”
For the American and Tuolumne rivers, NorCal’s top rafting rivers, the forecasts look great.
What? Aren’t we in the worst drought in a gazillion years? Isn’t the snowpack (and the melt-off to come) about 30 percent of normal in the high country? And won’t the rivers be rendered into trickles by July?
Well, in many cases, nope.
In a reversal of what is logical thought for many, conditions and flows on several rivers will be spectacular into summer for rafting, fishing and camping. And no, yer eyes ain’t foolin’ ya.
It’s a surprise twist to the way things work in California, even in a drought.
It rained enough in February and March to replenish, in part, several watersheds and reload many of the smaller, high-country reservoirs. Enough, that is, for water managers to release water from them and make their deliveries this summer.
The timing of the flows has been worked out to benefit recreation. So when those water deliveries are made, rafters will have a chance to float on them.
One of the best examples is the San Francisco Water Department, which met with outfitters last week to work out flow regimes out of Hetch Hetchy and Cherry reservoirs for the Tuolumne River.
“Despite a historic drought in California, we’re fortunate to have a number of rivers that get water from upstream reservoirs,” said Nate Rangel of California Outdoors, a trade association that represents California’s river outfitters. “That means we’re going to have great water all summer long.”
“On the Lower American River (below Folsom Lake and Lake Natomas), the Bureau of Reclamation is tied into the federal water project and they have to deliver water,” said Randy Calvin of River Rat Rafting in Fair Oaks. “It will run right past where we rent rafts and give people a chance to float down the river on it.”
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