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Low water puts damper on Prineville Reservoir boating


Unusually low water levels forced Prineville Reservoir State Park officials to pull docks out of the water Wednesday, several months earlier than usual.

The move sent one family home from vacation sooner than expected.

“We were using the docks, and that was a problem, so when they were taking them out, we figured we’d just go home,” said Troutdale resident Tanney Staffenson. “It’s so much work to take the boat in and out.”

Staffenson said the family has camped and boated at the reservoir for years.

“This is such a great park,” he said. “This is the lowest we’ve ever seen the water.”

Park employees tugged the docks along the reservoir, anchoring them down at shore for the winter.

It’s only the beginning of July.

“These are the levels that it would be at September,” Park Manager Steve Memminger said of the dropping water.

It’s not the only reservoir, lake or river experiencing unseasonably low water levels — a mild winter and quickly depleting snowpack are affecting waters across the state as Oregon is hit hard by drought.

The Prineville Reservoir State Park is now the only place on the reservoir with open boat ramps.

“We went to our usual boat ramp — Powder (House) Cove, and it was closed,” Bend resident Kathy Smith said. “So then we took the long drive around the Crooked River to come here.”

The boat launches at Powder House Cove and Jasper Point are both closed for the season.

Memminger said he suspects it will definitely affect camping at Powder House Cove.

But he added that so far, less water isn’t hurting the state park.

“We were very busy for the Four of July,” Memminger said. “We hope — we can’t guarantee it — that it will be open through Labor Day.”

Boaters can still moor their boats on the shore of the reservoir.

But Memminger said visitors should use extreme caution on the water.

“There’s going to be rocks offshore that they’re not used to, so they have got to be very careful, especially when they’re motoring close to shore,” he said.

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