With the drought worsening, the only public launch ramp at Lopez Lake is expected to close for the second time ever.
Hundreds of boats use the ramp. In September 2020, 675 boats entered the park. In October, that number was 890 and in November, 425 boats used the ramp.
Though usage was inflated around those months due to COVID-19, the launch ramp is now on the brink of closing amid peak recreation season this summer.
“It’s launch at your own risk,” said Matt Mohle, San Luis Obispo County Parks Supervising Ranger. “Right now, there's plenty of depth but there's a lot of sediment at the bottom of the ramp.”
The current lake level is at 33% capacity and it continues to dwindle.
Mohle says the only other time the ramp closed was back in 2016 when the level hit 27%.
“But it's a bit of a moving target because there is some movement of sand which could essentially require us to close it earlier or it could possibly close later but I'm assuming it's going to close around the same percentage,” Mohle explained.
The 2016 closure lasted a little over six months.
This time around, conditions are being monitored week by week to determine when it’s just too hazardous to launch.
“So what would happen, with some bigger boats that draw more sediment in the bottom of the launch ramp, when they would lower their unit that could catch in the dirt and hit rocks and ruin propellers,” Mohle said. “If a truck didn't have four-wheel drive and the trailer was backed into some soft sand, it might be hard to get off the launch ramp.”
Once the launch ramp is closed, hand launching is an option for skiffs and kayaks or anything you can carry into the water over at Mallard Cove.
Boat and kayak rentals will also still be available from the marina.
“We'll be moving them with the receding waterline,” said Summer Scott, Lopez Lake Marina General Manager. “They are normally kept behind our building. They'll just be moving with the water.”
Once the closure happens, it won’t reopen until there’s enough rain to start filling the lake, so the length of time is up to Mother Nature.
SLO County Parks will update its website with launch ramp information as conditions change.