As platoons of people descended on Brown’s Ravine in January to see the exposed gold rush town, Ken Christensen figured his 670 dock slots might not float boats at all this summer. But rains came and saved the season – somewhat.
The Folsom Lake Marina concessionaire said Friday that business is at about 60 percent of normal. The dock floated April, May and June before the shrinking waterline forced the boats ashore. The floating boat parking stays open until October during a normal year, Christensen said. He hasn’t seen “normal” in four or five years, he said.
The state’s lack of precipitation has compressed the boating season at Folsom Lake, hurt concessionaires and forced some to look elsewhere for recreation. While boats are all parked ashore, the marina – and the lake – remain open.
The lake is open without restrictions – but not for long. When the lake water level drops to 400 feet elevation, officials are expected to implement a 5 mph speed limit. The water level is now at 403.99 feet, or 42 percent of capacity, according to the California Department of Water Resources. Christensen figures boaters have another week and a half before the speed limit is put in effect.
The gas pump and law enforcement boats were idle as Assistant Manager Keith Wooten sat by Thursday like a lonely Maytag repairman. Business has been further hurt by the perception that Folsom Lake is empty, both men said.
The drought has also put a cramp in Folsom Lake Yacht Club’s season, said Mark Werder, the organization’s commodore.
“It certainly impacted our attendance at racing (events),” Werder said. “Many boat owners didn’t put their boat in the water.”
He said the season limped along with more shallow-bottom boats participating in events. But many boaters took their boats to the Bay Area or decided to do other things with their summer, Werder said.
“The San Francisco Bay will always have water in it, and it’s always windy,” he said.
The drought has made 2014 a lost summer for the SS Snack Shack at Beal’s Point, said Chris McIntyre, the concessionaire.
“We are making about a tenth of what we normally do,” said McIntyre, who said she cut the hours at the family business in response. “If there is no water, there is no reason for people to come out here.”
Alex Dunaychuk, who recently moved from Washington state to Roseville, said the declining water would not deter his family, including four little ones, from using the lake to beat Sacramento’s summer heat.
“We’ll be out here every weekend,” Dunaychuk said.
It’s a bit of a trek to get to the water from Folsom Lake’s Granite Bay entrance, but of the points of entry, it remains the busiest. And while there is a sea of empty parking spaces, a couple dozen people escaped a recent hot summer afternoon by swimming, splashing, playing and paddling in the lake’s cool waters.
A pair of kayakers paddled away. A man and child splashed each other as a woman sat on shore facing the falling sun – her face protected by a floppy hat. Down the way, Bob Lobdill’s grandkids grew impatient with grandma’s photo taking. Farther down, some young men used a old Toyota pickup to give their water scooter’s battery a jump. And even farther down, a man wore out a golden retriever by repeatedly tossing a tennis ball into the lake.
Lobdill, of Loomis, staked out a speck of prime beach real estate along with dozen family members.
“We are just out here trying to enjoy the last little bit of it,” he said.