LOPEZ LAKE, Calif. - After several years of drought, Lopez Lake is finally on the rise.
"We haven't seen any lake rise in maybe over five years," said Lopez Lake park ranger Lenny Cridebring. "So it's nice after seeing the lake drop, drop, drop every year, to finally to see some lake rise."
Since January 1, nine inches of rain has fallen at Lopez Lake. The rain has brought the lake's three tributaries to life, causing a significant flow of water to come into the parched reservoir.
"Right now all of our creeks are flowing, and that's kind of the sign there," said Cridebring said. "As long as we get enough rain to keep those seasonal and perennial creeks flowing at a good rate, then we'll see some significant rise."
Three main creeks, Lopez Creek, Arroyo Grande Creek and Wittenberg Creek, all feed into the lake. With all three steadily flowing, the lake is enjoying an impressive increase.
"We got down to the low 20's (percent). Right now, we're creeping up to 30 percent," Cridebring said. "We've got about six feet of lake rise. We're hoping to get another 15 feet of lake rise would kind of sustain us through the summer."
For Charlie Halsell, an increase in water level is great news. On Friday, the Grover Beach resident brought his two young sons to the lake to check it out personally.
"We've been really excited," said Halsell. "As soon as we pulled up, everybody let out a hoot and holler when we saw where the water levels were at."
Halsell is a frequent visitor to the lake. Along with his family, he says he used to visit Lopez Lake two to three times a week to kayak. However, he stopped coming in November due to low levels.
His morning trip Friday was his first to the lake in a few weeks.
The difference is incredible," said Halsell. "From where we're standing right now, this was the last point where the water level was at and now it's way up."
Not far from where Halsell and his sons viewed the water, sat docks quietly floating for the first time in weeks.
"In the beginning of the month, the docks were sitting on soil, there was no water in this whole arm here," said Cridebring.
Now, the docks are afloat, a dramatic example of how much water has flowed into the lake recently.
"When you get those back-to-back storms and when you get nine inches in a short amount of time, or a good wet week like we had last week, then we'll see some significant rise," Cridebring said.
For the past several years, most of the lake's outer edges have been bone dry. Cridebring says more consistent rainfall could soon fill in those edges with shallow water.
"Four to five feet of rise is going to show significant increase in lake square footage," Cridebring said. "If we get nine inches of rain, a lot these arms are going to fill up. If you get a few feet of rise in those flat areas, even though the capacity isn't there, the square footage will increase."
With the lake rising, Cridebring says park rangers are asked daily when the boat launch ramp will be able to be used again. Closed since August, the ramp could be close to reopening.
"We're probably going to need about another four to five feet of rise to launch and open our facility to full boat launch capabilities. Hopefully with a few more storms we can achieve that," said Cridebring.
While the rain has significant, Cridebring notes the lake is quite a ways from filling up completely.
"We're going to need quite a bit more rain to fill this reservoir," Cridebring said. "We're still at less than 30 percent, so that gives you an idea how much rain we still need. By no means are we close to full, but we want people to come out and enjoy the lake, but we still need more rain."