Need for Action!!
The Corps of Engineers will formulate a Recreational Remediation Plan, to address changes necessitated by the Lake Isabella dam "repair" work slated to start in 2015. I submitted the proposal below to the gent in charge of drafting this plan back in March, and he is considering it favourably. However, he urged that I find many more voices in support of such a scheme, to give it more weight during the deliberations between the various agencies involved. Instead of "Eva would like to see a ....." it should be "dozens of lake users wrote in, in favour of a scheme such as Eva's".

Would you all kindly read through my  proposal below, and - if you like the idea, send a note to

Hunter Merritt

US Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District

1325 J Street, Sacramento, CA  95814

or email him at

and copy our Forest Service Head Ranger, Al Watson while you are at it - after all, he will be the one to implement this scheme:




Eva's Proposal to Corps of Engineers and Forest Service regarding Recreational Remediation Plan for Lake Isabella

Submitted to Corps on Mar 3, 2013



When repairs to the Lake Isabella Auxiliary Dam necessitate the popular Auxiliary Dam Recreation Area to at least partially be turned into a staging area, a number of options may be considered regarding disposition of the hundreds of campers normally using this venue in summer:

1. close all of the AuxDamRec area; make no provisions for the displaced users;

2. allow mixed recreation in the unused, Northern portion of the AuxDamRec area;

3. limit the Northern portion of the AuxDamRec area to non-motorized users; and allow dispersed camping at Kissack Cove and on the beach at Paradise Cove for the motorized users displaced from the AuxDamRec area.


Alternative 1 would cause enormous problems due to crowding at the popular Old Isabella site, and as a consequence, likely reduce the number of visitors dramatically, reducing the revenue they normally bring to the Valley. It would also eliminate a world-class venue for beginning and recreational windsurfers.

Alternative 2 would essentially result in the same negative impacts, with gross overcrowding pushing out the windsurfers who are already being marginalized in this location.

With the population increasingly suffering from obesity-related health problems, and our environment severely stressed due to pollution, eliminating a healthy, non-polluting activity is unacceptable.

Alternative 3 would accommodate the healthful sports, while giving the motorized users 2 venues of their own, out of the wind, which they hate.


Background, Details and Precedents

Most weather related winds, as well as ALL the thermal winds generated in spring and early summer, sweep up the Kern Canyon, turning Southerly, rise over the Auxiliary Dam, drop back down onto the lake a couple of 100 yards further North, squeezing between Cook Peak and Shirley Peak as they go, accelerating in the process until they reach their maximum opposite the end of Engineer's Point, 1/4 mile NE of the Old Isabella launch ramps. Beyond this point, the winds fan out, losing speed and stability. This local phenomenon blowing reliably and predictably over a navigable body of water is so unique, only a few other places like it exist in the entire US: the Columbia River Gorge on the Oregon/Washington border is one, as is the Sacramento River Delta. Since these venues have strong river currents and ship traffic, they are ill suited for beginners and recreational sailors. After Lake Isabella, the nearest safe, predictable venue for these users is Lake Lopez near San Luis Obispo, which is small and not blessed with the strong winds of Lake Isabella; and South Padre Island, Texas.


Since the very first beginnings of windsurfing in the early 80s, windsurfers have congregated on the North end of the Lake Isabella Auxiliary Dam beach. It was, and is famous, for its fantastic conditions. Sailors from as far away as Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Phoenix and San Diego, regularly make the pilgrimage to Lake Isabella every summer.

Early on, the occasional water skier would do his thing in the calm early morning, or in the wind shadow close to the dam, and increasingly, jet skis would join them there, but no-one would venture further away from the dam, because "damn wind, ruins everything!". As jet skis became more popular, they camped in the lee of Cooks Peak at Paradise Cove, and day users launched from Kissack Cove. Somewhere along the way, the beach North of the Old Isabella launch ramps was opened to recreational use, and advanced windsurfers quickly moved there because of the stronger wind. (this area is known as the "Ghetto", since it is even less policed than the AuxDamRec area, and many unsavory activities take place there). Sailors not quite as proficient continued sailing from the Aux Dam site, because it is somewhat better contained, so in the event of break-down or inadequate skills, one would not face a 5 mile drift to Kernville.

Then, about 20 years ago, the Corps' very own Henry Hornsby had the brilliant idea to convert Paradise Cove to a "civilized" campground, replete with paving and designated campsites above the high water mark. It lies abandoned, except on very big holidays. All its traditional users migrated to the Aux Dam Rec Area, to continue to be able and camp at the water's edge. Over the years, with ever-increasing numbers of visitors, what used to be safe separation between the different user groups became blurred. Instead of staying in the lee of the dam, overcrowding forced jet skiers and speed boaters to move their camps further North - complaining about the wind, but moving nonetheless. With many near-by venues increasingly prohibiting or at least severely restricting jet skis, while at the same time the few existing laws at Lake Isabella being rarely if ever enforced, the AuxDam beach is overwhelmed with them. The invasion into wind sport territory by the motorized contingent is so severe by now, and enforcement of the rules on land as well as on the water so minimal, that on a summer weekend, it is not safe to be windsurfing any more. A constant drone fills the air, and heavy exhaust fumes give one a headache. Numerous collisions have occurred in the last couple of years, invariably with damage only to the windsurfer, invariably going without consequence of any kind to the jet skier in violation of the rules of the road. When a 15 pound windsurfer going 30mph is hit by a 600 pound jet ski doing 50mph not paying attention to where he is going, the outcome is predictable. But little good does it do me as the sailor to have the right of way, if I am dead. Numbers of windsurfing visitors have steadily dropped during the summer months as a result.


And if all this was not bad enough, now the Corps plans to take away half the Aux Dam Rec Area, worsening the problems due to overcrowding and mixing of different user groups. But there might be a silver lining: maybe, this is our opportunity to safely separate the conflicting users again, and allow them the enjoyment of their chosen recreation, each without the interference from the other.


As much as I generally espouse the concept of mixed use, it is patently obvious that motorized and non-motorized recreational users are too different to coexist without major conflicts: the windsurfer engages in an athletic activity that requires all his senses, i.e. does not support the use of alcohol or other mind-bending substances. One of the major reasons why the windsurfer pursues his sport is that he is conscious of the dire need of protecting our environment. He arrives in a small-ish conveyance, and typically obtains whatever extra energy from solar panels. The windsurfer expends a lot of energy in pursuit of his passion, and will as a consequence be asleep soon after it gets dark. The windsurfer enjoys quiet time.

The jetskier and speed boater, on the other hand, thinks nothing of burning many gallons of fossil fuel with his recreational activity, polluting air and water in the bargain. The required skill is minimal, so use of alcohol is rampant. The physical effort is minimal as well, so he will be awake until late into the night, partying. He arrives in a huge motorhome or Toy Hauler, bringing with him all the comforts of home such as big stereo systems, air conditioners and TVs, all of which require the running of noisy generators at night. Being loud is cool, obnoxious is in.

It is, I suppose, one way of "going camping", but not one I can condone, or would deliberately chose to be exposed to.

Let us separate!


When during the dam repairs, the South end of the AuxDamRec Area is sectioned off as a staging area, windsurfers cannot simply be "moved around the corner", as one early proposal phrased it, because the very conditions which enable windsurfing, end at the Ghetto - there is no windsurfing beyond, except during the very occasional North or West wind events. Motorized users, however, would rather be elsewhere, anyway, out of the wind, the way they used to enjoy the lake before the camping rules were changed.


Let us make the part of the AuxDamRec area not used as a staging area, a "hand-launch only" area, a safe haven for windsurfers, and for the many Hobie cats, kayaks and stand-up paddleboarders who feel increasingly threatened by the ubiquitous jetskis. Since this will be a "dead end", with no motorized through-traffic, we should have 5mph buoys from the bottom of the Old Isabella launch ramp across to the tip of Engineer's Point, marking off a relatively small body of water for non-motorized use, which would lie squarely in one of the best windsurfing spots in the US, and which was historically used by windsports.

In exchange, improve access to the downwind part of the Old Isabella Rec Area which is currently all but impassable by larger motorhomes; increase presence of Forest Service personell there to stem the drug-related activities; and allow the same dispersed camping that is allowed at the AuxDamRec area, on the beach below the Paradise Cove campground, as well as at Kissack Cove. Both those venues are popular for day use, and do have the requisite facilities in place to enable overnight camping. Since this arrangement needs to work at low water levels, the trees in that area would need to be pulled, to allow safe water activities.

For those crying "foul", and "preferrential treatment" of one user group over another, they need to be reminded that this separation would be in the interest of all parties involved. I am very much aware that jetskis resent my presence as a windsurfer, because it limits their freedom to throw donuts whenever the urge overcomes them - never mind that I as the wind-powered craft have the right-of-way, and am quite limited as to the course I can sail; and that jetskis prefer flat water, without wind-chop, which forces them to slow down.

And for those needing a precedent, let me point to Lake Lopez near San Luis Obispo: there, one arm of the lake has been set aside for non-motorized pursuits, with a launch area reserved for windsurfers, and with a 5mph speed limit for powerboats and jetskis. Though the venue is small, the wind relatively light, and the entry expensive, it is extremely popular with windsurfers due to the safe, civilized atmosphere. A lot of disillusioned former Lake Isabella sailors now go there, taking their recreational dollars with them. Which is another point to ponder: as opposed to the recreational venues around Lake Isabella, the county-run recreational facilities at Lake Lopez actually have a positive cash flow. Something to be learned there, maybe?

The only negative I could see from the arrangement proposed above would be my not being able any more to walk the beach in search of bored jetski kids, whom I could persuade to give windsurfing a try.



Eva-M Hollmann

windsurfing at the AuxDam video

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