1/23/2016: Hike Santa Margarita Lake

The local news reported that there was a greater number of Bald Eagles in the area so I decided to return to the park where I saw my first.  The dogs and I used to hike at the Santa Margarita Lake county park weekly.  We would walk 5 miles then I would paddle my kayak for some extra exercise.  Once the water levels dropped because of the drought, we stopped going regularly.  In fact, I haven’t been there in over a year.

I hiked in from the east side at sunrise hoping to get a good workout and photograph the birds at the quiet end of the lake.  There would be no motor boats at the shallow end where the beginnings of the Salinas River run like a small creek into the reservoir.  Oh, it was quiet all right.  Silent!  There were no boats, birds or lake.  The places where I kayaked for exercise, where we paddled in to canoe camp, I was now walking.  With the ravages of El Nino supposedly inundating us, I found no water.  There was no evidence of the Salinas River except a bed of moist white sand.  I have seen many of the California lakes at extremely low levels but this time it seemed different.  I had paddled here and was now standing at least 10′ below the surface where I would have been historically.  Seeing “the narrows” from the trail conjured visions in my head of the before and after effects of the drought.  I stood where I once took a photo of a group of canoes paddling into the backcountry camp and was unable to fathom the view as I saw it now.  Unreal.

I never found the eagles but was not disappointed.  The effects of the drought in the lake levels, the number of dead and fallen trees, and lack of birds species and numbers was devastating.

 

4 thoughts on “1/23/2016: Hike Santa Margarita Lake”

  1. It looks like a great home and let’s hope it starts filling up soon. I drove by Folsom lake again yesterday and it looks like water levels are up a smidge which is a good sign. But we also drove by new melones reservoir and it must have been 40 or 50 feet below the water line. It was kind of crazy. There were lots and lots of creeks and streams very full of water and the grasses were green. That’s better than its been for a few years. We have had some good rain over the last few weeks and some good snow. Hoping it will keep coming.

    Hopefully as soon as the water starts flowing your birds and animals will come back…. Are they diverting the water do you know? Or is it just dry?

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  2. We drove by Lake McClure and New Melones last summer and saw how low they were. Maybe I associated it with summer or maybe, because I had never been on the water there, it didn’t strike me as that bad. Driving over Lake Shasta was devastating because I had a visual reminder of that lake near full. But hiking in the middle of the reservoir was a terrible feeling. And, with all the recent rain, I thought that there would at least be a little creek flowing through the center where the Salinas River used to run. I guess that the reservoir is too close to the top of the watershed. The water is used in San Luis Obispo but I don’t know about the rationing or draw down. I look forward to the return of the birds and animals because there used to be incredible diversity there.

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