Campgrounds that Cater to Water Sport Enthusiasts are Hopeful that Recent Rains Mean El Niño is on its Way


Debbie Sipe

(530) 885-1621

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The same storms that bring snow to ski resorts could bring much needed runoff to lakes and reservoirs favored by water ski and wakeboard enthusiasts, according to California campground operators


LA GRANGE, Calif., Dec. 7, 2015 — Chris Collett is optimistic. After watching Don Pedro Reservoir drop to its lowest level in 

decades after four years of drought, recent rains have stopped the decline and the lake, which is fed by the Tuolumne River west of Yosemite National Park, is slowly starting to rise once again. 


“We’ve bottomed out and we’re starting to see water levels increase now,” said Collett, a spokesman for Don Pedro Recreation Agency in La 

Grange, one of many agencies in the Sierra Foothills and across California that are hoping forecasts of a wet El Niño winter materialize.

Water flowing into Don Pedro Reservoir is good news not only for water supplies, Collett said, but for recreation, since the 29 mile-long reservoir and adjacent campgrounds are popular with water ski and wakeboard enthusiasts. 


“After you have fun with the snow in the mountains, you can have fun with the runoff in the lakes,” Collett said, adding that Don Pedro Recreation 

Agency has just widened a section of its Fleming Meadows boat launch ramp from 24 to 54 feet in preparation for a busy spring and summer. 


“Instead of launching single file, at low water, we’ll be able to launch three wide with ample room on either side,” Collett said. 


Across California, campground operators and other tourism related businesses that depend on mountain runoff are watching the skies in 

hopeful anticipation of a wet El Niño winter. 


“If we have a wet El Niño winter, campground operators up and down the state will rejoice,” said Debbie Sipe, executive director of the California 

Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds, which hosts, the travel planning website. 


Those campground operators include Kris and Katie Oneida of Wishon Village RV Resort, a 55-year-old family owned and operated campground in the Sierra Nevada town of Shaver Lake, northwest of Fresno. 


“We have already received about three feet of snow, which is a great start,” Kris Oneida said, adding, “All of last season, we only had eight feet. 

Greater snow depths will help our business because it will significantly increase lake levels, which will give us a much needed boost in fishing boat 

rentals and dock rental space, which we have not had in about five years. The amount of fish caught would also increase as more people would be 

on the water. The stocking of fish would be an easier task as well.” 


Oneida added that even normal rainfall and snowfall would be greatly beneficial for Wishon Village and other Sierra Nevada campgrounds. “I think for businesses like us, it is not critical that we have a record snowfall in order to have a successful season,” he said because the lakes don’t have to be full for us to have a booming summer. I hope El Niño does show up, but it doesn’t have to be a record breaker.” 


Even normal rainfall and snowfall will greatly benefit campgrounds and other tourism related business in the Lake Shasta area as well, said 

Matt Boyle, president of the Shasta Lake Business Owners Association. 


“We’re right on the northern cusp of the El Niño track that’s coming in,” Boyle said. “But even in an average year, this lake fills up pretty fast.” 


Lake Shasta is currently at 29 percent capacity. But Boyle’s employer, Lake Shasta Caverns, is still able to operate dinner cruises on the lake. 


“People are optimistic about the upcoming winter,” said Shannon Park, owner of Fawndale Oaks RV Park in Redding, which has 33 RV sites, 

10 tent sites and two rental units, including a 28-foot trailer and a rustic cabin, all of which are popular with water ski enthusiasts. 


“Water levels are down, but we’re looking for them to come up,” said Lauretta Aro, manager of Edgewater Resort & RV Park in Kelseyville, a 61 

site park with five cabins for rent along the shores of Clear Lake, which is popular with water skiing enthusiasts. “People are excited.”


Much further south, the 242-site Pinezanita RV Park & Campgrounds in Julian is also looking forward to wet winter filling up the campground’s fishing pond. “Hopefully, we’ll get some good rain this year, and we’ll be ready for spring,” said Sandy Stanley, who helps run the park with her 

husband, Tom. 


Meanwhile, crews at Don Pedro Recreation Agency are paying close attention to mountain runoff. 


“After the Rim Fire, we have concerns about woody debris coming down into the lake,” Collett said. “We already have the upper reservoir boomed off to stop driftwood from coming into the lake. We want to make sure the reservoir continues to be as free of driftwood  as possible to create optimal conditions for water skiers and wake boarders next season.”


For more information about the potential impact of the El Niño on California campgrounds as well as other questions involving camping, please contact Debbie Sipe or Suzanne White at the California Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds at (530) 885-1624 and visit