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Lopez Lake boat launch expected to close, drought conditions to blame

SLO County Parks and Recreation
Lopez Lake at 33 percent

Lopez Lake is in the height of summer visitor season and its boat access is a big draw for people coming from across California.

But because of drought conditions and a decreasing lake level, the San Luis Obispo County Parks and Recreation Department expects to close the lake’s boat launch ramp in the next month.

The lake level is at 33 percent right now and the boat launch ramp is still usable, but likely not for long. That’s according to Matt Mohle, a supervising ranger with San Luis Obispo County Parks.

Mohle said they’re expecting to close it soon because, just in the last month, the lake level dropped about 1.5 percent. As far as how long the ramp could be closed — Mohle said that’s up to Mother Nature.

“We would have to have a pretty decent rain year for us to get lake rise,” Mohle said. “Potentially, if we had a significant drought year, it could stay closed for a couple years if we didn’t get decent rain.”

Mohle said if we have an average rain year, they could reopen the launch ramp for Spring and Summer 2022.

Mohle said the last time the boat ramp closed was July 2016 when the lake level hit 27 percent. He said they didn’t open the ramp again until January 2017.

He says the ground has to become saturated and the area needs to get a decent amount of additional rain to get enough stream runoff to boost lake levels.

He said this potential upcoming closure could have a big impact on county funds because during September and October, Lopez Lake typically sees 300 to 400 boats launching during each of those months.

Mohle said after the expected closure, people will still be able to launch kayaks and small boats but large boats won’t make it in. He said, even now, they are warning people to launch at their own risk because of rising sediment — which means even less room for boats.

“If you had a very large boat at this point, you might have difficulty launching,” Mohle said. “Or if you backed your vehicle way down into the sand and you didn’t have 4-wheel drive, you might have issues as well.”

Mohle said they could dredge the lake to make it more usable but that would be expensive, time consuming. He said it would also come with a host of environmental impacts.

Mohle said visitors can keep an eye on the county parks website and social media for weekly updates as they move closer to potentially closing the boat launch ramp.

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