President's Corner

Unseasonably Dry Conditions Continue 

By Scott Harvey

Scott Harvey.jpg

Greetings fellow club members,


Snowpack and Streamflow Conditions:

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), an agency under the United States Department of Agriculture maintains and establishes a cooperative snow survey and water supply forecasting program to develop reliable water forecasts for the Western United States. The NRCS also publishes a monthly snowpack, reservoir and streamflow report for each of the western states basin drainages. As for the Oregon basin outlook report, it’s looking somewhat grim with just about 100% of the state in some category of drought condition as of early May. 

Unseasonably dry conditions have continued from March, through April and now into May with very limited precipitation and above average temperatures across the state of Oregon and much of the western US. The snowpack conditions are a stark transition from earlier this year when conditions were near normal or above normal for much of the state. In the last two months, snowpack conditions have declined rapidly across Oregon and the West. The three month outlook predictions from the NOAA, calls for a higher chance of above average temperatures across most of the state and, to make matter worse, there is a higher chance for below average precipitation across the state of Oregon to boot.  

Reservoir conditions vary somewhat across the western states, including Oregon. However, most reservoirs are storing water volumes well below average. Nearly all reservoirs in Southern Oregon including the Klamath basin, Lake County and Goose Lake basin are storing water below 50% of normal. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are reporting that most of their reservoirs that they maintain in the Oregon Cascades to be below normal for water storage capacity. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reports below average conditions in the Deschutes River Basin. Idaho State is a bit better with reservoir capacity just slightly below normal for the Boise, Payette and Upper Snake River Basins. Water storage in Washington State is much better than other western states. Yakima River Basin is reporting normal to above normal conditions, along with some of the reservoirs in the Washington Cascades.  Streamflow conditions vary across Oregon State with Northeast Oregon rivers currently running close to normal. But for most of Central-Eastern Oregon, Central Cascades and Southern Oregon, gauging stations in those areas are reporting below 50% of average for streamflows. 


Where to Boat this Summer:

What does all this mean to the avid Northwest boater! The only rivers or streams that will have any reliable flows for this upcoming summer will be only those that are regulated by either dams or reservoirs. Those dam controlled rivers will include the Deschutes, Snake (Hells Canyon), Rogue, Klamath, North Umpqua, McKenzie, North Santiam, Lower Clackamas, Skagit in Washington and Tieton River during September releases. However, there are some rivers around like the White Salmon, Metolius, Main Salmon and Lower Salmon in Idaho that are either natural run-off or spring feed rivers that will supply water for most of the summer. Other western snow feed river basins that are reporting good run-off conditions this summer are the Northern Washington Cascades. In Idaho the Clearwater, Lochsa, North Fork Clearwater and St. Joe River drainages are reporting normal snowpack conditions. In Montana, the Flathead River basin, Clarks Fork, Madison, Gallatin and the Yellowstone Rivers have normal snow pack conditions. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that the summer months this year are cooler with some rain showers thrown in. It may not be enough to bring river flows up, but to a lesser degree, to minimize the threat of devastating forest fires that most of us in the Northwest witnessed 8 months ago.  

Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival: 

Since we’re talking about devastating forest fires, this is now the second year that the Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival, also known as Clack Fest, has been canceled. Last year because of Covid-19 restrictions and now this year the river canyon remains closed due to the destructive Riverside Fire. This whitewater festival has been an annual river gathering of Northwest boaters since the early 1980’s. Clack Fest has something to offer interested boaters other than a weekend escape. A variety of river crafts can challenge the slalom gates at Carter Falls Rapids, demo new rafts and catboats, meet old friends, check out new gear, watch your fellow boaters compete in the slalom course, silent auctions, raffles, food, live music, and the evening beer garden in the festival area and most importantly, bonding around an open camp fire with other like-minded comrades. The desire is stronger than ever for local river runners to re-bond together again and share stories, both old and new!   


Safety and Training: 

On a positive note, the basic river training trips on the Lower Clackamas River have been going well with two trips under the belt and another one coming up in mid May.  Everyone involved has been learning from others and giving everyone a chance to reassess their safety gear and rescue techniques. Also we are in the works for planning and putting together a Wilderness First Aid Training course around the first weekend in October. The WFA Training will be posted when details are all finalized.   

I personally hope you all have an enjoyable summer this year with family and friends. Whether it be floating a river, hiking a trail, camping alongside a lake or spending time at the beach. Get out and enjoy the outdoors of the Northwest and be safe!  


Cheers and Safe Boating,

Scott Harvey