Bismarck/Mandan, Launching Boats May Be Tricky In 2022
Low water levels on the Missouri River System will impact more than just boat owners. What about their pontoon pals that rely on them for summertime fun?
Who's going to tell Chester the river-dog?
Well, the bearer of bad news is the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. After a prolonged period of drought water levels have dropped making access to many boat ramps "problematic". Not that NDGF aren't excellent problems solvers, but it is certainly a word that pops up often when listening to their officials.
“Given current water levels and projected runoff based on mountain snowpack, its likely both lakes Sakakawea and Oahe will be 5-10 feet lower than the lake elevations experienced in 2021,” said Greg Power, North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries chief.
“At these forecasted elevations, boating access at many, if not most of the boat ramps, will become problematic. The good news is that work was done during previous droughts resulting in a network of low water ramps that may become functional this year if some issues, such as erosion and sedimentation, are first addressed.”
So it's always nice to hear "good news" but that's directed more at boaters on the big lakes. Well below spring-runoff levels are a trend agencies expect to continue, Mother Nature could step in with a massive Montana snow event that would alleviate much of the low water issues. But that's wishful thinking, whereas Bob Frolich, fishery development supervisor for NDGF seems more of a realist. At least for the time being...
"If you lose Fox Island, you lose Fox Island"
Now hang on...Fox Island is a very popular launching locale in south Bismarck. It's one of a dozen ramps that exist south of the Garrison Dam to the headwaters of Lake Oahe. Bob is it that bad? Here's a recent quote from Frolich reported by the Associated Press from Bismarck Tribune reporting*
*mind you, I was rightfully called out on not fully crediting this source. Sometimes AP sweeps the news sources and sometimes it's vice versa. Solid reporting throughout to Blake Nicholson Bismarck Tribune. Great story and interviews.
“The ramps on Lake Sakakawea -- it’s not pretty. And we probably have three usable ramps between Bismarck and the South Dakota border.”
So it's time to start looking for cash to fund projects and inter-agency cooperation. That's already been long underway with Game and Fish already teaming with the ND Department of Water Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and North Dakota Parks and Recreation. If Devils Lake is more of your boating destination, they're having low water issues as well.
Hopefully, we won't find ourselves on the dock hopelessly waiting for last summer's pontoon buddy who's not going to come pick us up.
Easy access to the river means much summer fun for Bismarck/Mandan. I moved here two decades ago and quickly realized this area treats summer like it's the weekend and the rest of the year is spent waiting for the weekend to return. So here's hoping Montana gets a big pile of snow while North Dakota enjoys a significant increase in spring showers and we can get out on the water all "weekend" long.