Lost Creek and Applegate lakes are nearly full and fully operational; the county recommends calling ahead for boat rentals
A fishing boat hangs around Lake Applegate, which is teeming with water, on Thursday. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
Central Point’s Del and Susie Curry return to the Hart-Tish Park boat launch Thursday after a day of fishing at Applegate Lake. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
The water level of Lost Creek Lake can be seen at the top of the dam Sunday afternoon. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
Boats come in and out of Lost Creek Lake Marina Sunday afternoon. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
Despite an exceptionally dry winter and consecutive drought years, boaters, paddlers and other water sports enthusiasts are in for a pleasant surprise at Jackson County’s two largest lakes – and it comes just in time for the weekend. end of Memorial Day.
As of Friday morning, data from the Jackson County Watermaster’s Office and the US Bureau of Reclamation showed Lost Creek Lake was 99% full and Applegate Lake was 85%.
Jackson County Parks Superintendent Steve Lambert said he was preparing just months ago for Lost Creek Lake to experience one of its worst years of water in a generation, “and now , all of a sudden, it’s full”.
“We didn’t expect that. The fish managers there didn’t expect that. Nobody expected that,” Lambert said. “The wet April and the first start of May helped us a lot.”
On Friday it was raining again, and more was in the forecast
“We’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll there for the summer,” Lambert said.
Earlier this year, Lambert said he anticipated the day-use area at Joseph Stewart County Park would only have been usable during the month of June, and that a swimming beach would have been “high and dry” in mid-summer.
“Now we’re looking at a situation where the boat launch and marina would be usable through Labor Day,” Lambert said, adding, “things are in great shape there.”
Lambert said the county expects much more activity at Lost Creek Lake compared to last year, and county boat rentals will move much faster this summer. In Joseph Stewart, the county has 10 fishing boats and four pontoon boats available for rent, and Lambert encourages those interested in boat rentals or mooring slips to call the county parks office to book at the advance to 541-774-8183.
“Pontoon boats in particular are very popular,” Lambert said.
It’s not the only lake expected to be busy this season. Lambert said he expects Willow Lake to remain popular because it was an “outlier” during last year’s droughts and managed to maintain a high level, and Agate Lake is 100 full. %.
Until the second half of May, Applegate Lake was so low that the Hart-Tish Park boat launch was closed. As of Friday, however, Applegate Lake was 85% full and “everything is open and usable,” according to Virginia Gibbons, spokeswoman for Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
Other reservoirs in southern Oregon still have a lot of ground to catch up after years of drought. Emigrant Lake was at 30%, Howard Prairie and Hyatt Lakes were both at 16%.
“There’s not much we can do from a boating perspective,” Lambert said, but Howard Prairie, in particular, remains a nice place to camp, offering cooler temperatures in the summer heat and little mosquitoes.
“It’s still the same old campground, just a little further from the water,” Lambert said.
With additional traffic expected over Memorial Day weekend, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Shawn Richards said boaters should be prepared for additional marine patrols and be sure to wear life jackets in anticipation of temperatures as cold as the low 50s in some lakes.
“The big thing we’re trying to bring out is that the water is extremely cold,” Richards said. “We want people to wear a life jacket and be aware when they’re in the water. Whatever the body of water, it’s very cold right now.
According to Oregon State Marine Board spokeswoman Ashley Massey, it’s unclear whether improving lake levels in southern Oregon are driving local demand for boating licenses and registrations, as parts of the state are still facing drought conditions.
Massey said Thursday that the agency is “running about average” for new registrations, “but it depends on the fish and the water.”
“We’re holding our ground,” Massey said. “We see an increase every spring.”
Massey encourages boaters to plan ahead and check obstacles and boat ramp details before their trip by referring to the Boat Oregon online map available at www.oregon.gov/osmb/ Pages/Reported-Obstructions-Alerts.aspx.
“We encourage people to just plan ahead,” Massey said. “Watch what the reservoir levels look like right now and have a plan A and a plan B due to fluctuating water conditions.”
The Marine Board has seen an increase in boating activity statewide. Massey encourages boaters to “start slow and really pay attention to your surroundings”.
“When you’re sitting higher on the water in a powerboat, paddlers are sometimes harder to see,” Massey said. “Situational awareness is a very important element of security.”
Contact Web Editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.
Andy Atkinson/Mail TribuneLost Creek Lake captured from Peyton Bridge on Sunday afternoon.
Andy Atkinson/Mail TribuneThe Rogue River empties on Boulders Avenue near Prospect leading to the top of Lost Creek Lake on Sunday afternoon.
Andy Atkinson/Mail TribuneWater flows over Pearsony Falls in Prospect on Sunday afternoon.
Andy Atkinson/Mail TribuneA couple from Central Point capture the amount of water flowing over Pearsony Falls in Prospect on Sunday afternoon.
Andy Atkinson/Mail TribuneA boat leaves the Hart-Tish Park boat launch at Applegate Lake on Thursday afternoon.
Andy Atkinson/Mail TribuneWater near the top of Applegate Lake Dam on Thursday afternoon.