A warm, dry winter brought little snow to parts of Southern Oregon. This led to thin snowpacks that prevented some local ski resorts from opening.
But federal water managers for the region's Rogue River Basin say there should be enough water for summer recreation.
Water flows on the Rogue River are largely controlled by the Lost Creek Dam.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers holds back water to prevent flooding and releases water to support fisheries and downstream communities.
And Army Corps officials say the Lost Creek Reservoir is on its way to being full.
“Releases will be a little lower than last year, but we’re pretty likely looking at filling Lost Creek,” said Jim Buck, operations project manger for the Army Corps of Engineer’s Rogue River Basin Project. “There’s still a very strong chance of having enough water for rafting and general use on the Rogue.”
He says the forecasted inflows of water into Lost Creek are about 71 percent of normal -— down about 17 percent from last year.
But if Lost Creek does fill, it’s a pretty good predictor for reliable flows during the summer season on the Rogue, when visitors go rafting, kayaking, fishing and go on jet boat tours.
That's welcomed news for Pete Wallstrom, owner of Momentum River Expeditions in Ashland.
Wallstrom is pleased that the drought's negative impact on winter sports -- specifically the way it forced the cancellation of the ski season at Mt. Ashland -- appears unlikely to bring a similar buzzkill to one of the West's most popular rafting rivers in 2014.
“Even though we’ve probably gotten a little less rain than usual, that’s still a lot of rain -– and the water will be awesome for rafting,” Wallstrom said.
Boating conditions are very much dependent on where and how a river receives it water.
Some rivers like the Owyhee in Eastern Oregon are still looking quite low, and outfitters are preparing for whatever conditions the rest of the spring holds.
Matt Dopp is the owner of Kokopelli River Center, also in Ashland. He cancelled planned training trips on the Owyhee.
But for the Rogue, he says there’s still time for things to turn around in terms of precipitation that leads to higher summer river flows.
“We’ve had not this bad of winters, but close, the last five to six years, and then it turned around to be a real phenomenal summer,” Dopp said. “It just depends on what the rain’s going to do.”
In April, the Army Corps of Engineers plans to announce its proposed summertime releases for the Rogue River.