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
all of the AuxDamRec area; make no provisions for the displaced users;
mixed recreation in the unused, Northern portion of the AuxDamRec area;
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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
It is, I
suppose, one way of "going camping", but not one I can condone, or would
deliberately chose to be exposed to.
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
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
windsurfing at the AuxDam video