Despite Drought, Water Levels Fine For Canoeing The Russian River

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Canoe on the Russian River (photo via Burke's Canoe Trips website)

Canoe on the Russian River (photo via Burke’s Canoe Trips website)

20141231_110118 Jeffrey Schaub
Jeffrey Schaub is a Bay Area broadcast news veteran. From 1990 to ...
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SONOMA COUNTY (KCBS)— Just a few short months ago businesses along Sonoma County’s Russian River were concerned about their livelihoods due to California’s drought. Now that Memorial Day is here, the kick off to the summer tourist season is official and the water wasn’t missing.

For many, a Russian River excursion includes a journey with Burke’s Canoe Trips, a family-owned business that goes back decades. Ted Schroeder has worked at Burke’s since Governor Jerry Brown served his first two terms in office back in the 1970s

“We haven’t encountered anything like this since the mid-70s; the big drought back in ’76-’77,” Schroeder said.

This past winter it looked like Burke’s and other businesses would be high and dry from the restricted water flows on the river due to the drought, which appeared to be menacing.

I’d say for it being late May, I’d say the water level is typical for maybe mid-July, which is good. It’ll be great canoeing all summer.

The Sonoma County Water Agency, which controls the river flow, is mandated by the state to keep enough water in the river to protect spawning salmon. That combined with two weeks of rain in April have helped water levels immensely.

Tourist Bob Wilkins said he wasn’t going to take any chances.

Despite Drought, Water Levels Fine For Canoeing The Russian River

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“We normally come out here for 4th of July, but realized that the river might be a little too low during that time, so we decided to come out here for Memorial Weekend instead,” he said.

But what would Burke’s do if the river dried up?

“I guess we’d add wheels to the bottom of the canoes,” he said.

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