Northern California lakes and reservoirs will be a popular destination this Memorial Day weekend and many visitors will be pleasantly surprised to see what’s awaiting them -- water levels that they haven’t seen in years.
Staff at the Folsom Lake Marina at Brown’s Ravine were busy preparing for the weekend, clearing debris from the docks and ramps. Two months ago it’s nearly 700 slips were empty. Boaters were afraid to put their boats in because the water was going down.
On Thursday, the slips were over 50 feet higher and almost to the parking lot. Boards were in the water and it will be that way through the summer.
"The water’s come up quite a bit," said Ben Shirley, a staff member with the Folsom Lake Marina. "Yeah, it’s much nicer and we’re going to have a much nicer season than we were predicting in the beginning of the year."
Gone is the familiar ring of bleached soil surrounding the lake. Visitors can see trees and bushes poking out of the water instead.
"There used to be a really large beach," said visitor Hailey Morton.
Oak Beach on the northern side of the lake was nowhere to be seen, a shocker for Morton, who hadn’t visited for a while.
"It’s weird to see all the water for sure," Morton said.
Water levels are similar at lakes throughout Northern California thanks to spring rains.
Water regulators are also keeping reservoirs full. Because the Sierra snowpack is so small, officials want to reserve as much water as possible for the summer months.
Except for Lake Oroville, Northern California reservoirs have been way above historical averages, something not seen since before the drought years. Folsom is at 120 percent of average.
Granite Bay Beach was a mere 45 feet wide in spots. The hard soil near the road was recently tilled and graded to make it more user-friendly but it was still a bit lumpy.
Beach-goers need to watch their toes. The huge amount of debris floated by the higher water was invading the beach as well.
"Definitely a lot of debris. We wanted to play volleyball but there's sticks and stuff," said visitor Abbie Lewis.
At Hobie Cove at Brown’s Ravine, three to 400 parking spots were underwater, meaning people should get there early because Folsom Lake will close its gates once the recreation area fills up.
Because there was less land, more wildlife, rattlesnakes in particular, may be lurking in the bushes and rocks near the shore.
State rangers say boaters should beware of debris on the water and pay attention to speed limits since there will be more people closer to the shoreline.
Rangers also say once the Folsom Lake area is at capacity there will be no in and out privileges and the gates will close. It is a reason to get out there early. Another reminder, there is no alcohol allowed on the shore.