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Drought's trickle-down effect on North Coast water sports

  • Warning signs are a bleached reminder of when Indian Valley Reservoir in Lake County was full. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

Water sports across the state are being curtailed as the ongoing drought shrinks lakes and reduces some rivers to mere trickles, events that are taking a bite both out of summer activities and the businesses that depend on them.

The impacts to California's estimated $85 million recreation industry have not yet been calculated but could be far reaching.

Statewide, fishing tournaments and a yachting race have been relocated or canceled. Closer to home, outdoor gear suppliers have reported a slowdown in boat rentals near Lake Mendocino, where officials on Monday are closing the boat ramps for the second time this year because there is not enough water to safely launch a vessel.

Indian Valley Reservoir

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Lake Mendocino, the second-largest reservoir on the Russian River, on Friday held 47,387 acre-feet of water, 42.8 percent of its storage capacity and 18 percent less than the same time last year, when the ramps closed in mid-August.

To the east in Lake County, boat ramps at the Indian Valley Reservoir also have been shut and at least one of lake's small campgrounds has closed.

Two whitewater rafting companies based on Cache Creek, east of Clear Lake, have been shuttered for the season.

“We are sorry to say that we will not be having a rafting season because of the California drought,” the voice on Whitewater Adventures' phone message states.

“Cache Creek is something you can walk across right now,” said Bill Mashek, of Forestville-based Rubicon Adventures, which normally offers about 10 trips down Cache Creek's rapids each year.

Mashek said he'll ease the blow to his local business by shifting more of his trips to more reliable waterways such as the American River, which has dam-regulated flows.

The American River is “about the only thing that's going to be running this summer,” Mashek said.

Closer to home, the Russian River north of Cloverdale is rarely much good for rafting through the summer, so not much has changed there. South of Cloverdale, the flows are lower than usual but the river remains navigable, Mashek said.

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