HANFORD — For floaters looking for that traditional summertime journey on the Kings River, this has been a year to forget. First, near-record dry conditions in the mountains produced feeble flows from Highway 43 to Laton Park that were barely deep enough to wade in.
Now it has stopped flowing completely.
At the Highway 43 bridge, there are tracks in the sand from joyriders illegally using the riverbed as an off-road trail.
The spot on Cairo Avenue a few hundred yards north that is usually packed with floaters’ cars was empty Monday afternoon.
Assistant Sheriff Dave Putnam said there are still pockets of water left on the river where people can go swimming.
Locations like Laton-Kingston Park and the stretch of river near Naval Air Station Lemoore may even be deep enough to accommodate a small boat or personal watercraft.
“The weirs and dams have left a few areas wet, but there’s no flow connecting it together,” Putnam said. “Floaters aren’t going to have much luck from here on out.”
At Laton Park, you can see a few people walking into the water to cool off, but that’s about it.
It isn’t going to get any better.
For the rest of the summer, flows on the Kings are going to be cut even more.
According to Kings River Watermaster Steve Haugen, by the end of next week, there won’t be any flowing water in the channel west of the Highway 99 bridge.
Haugen said it’s the seventh-driest year on record in 115 years of record-keeping.
There are still a few thousand cubic-feet-per-second being released from Pine Flat Dam in Fresno County. But it’s quickly sucked up by the few irrigation districts that still haven’t used up their water allocation.
“I think the river is done for the season,” Putnam said. “I don’t expect to see much more than what we’ve got right now.”
Conditions were better last year, when reservoirs were still full from above-normal precipitation in the winter of 2009-2010.
But with the last two winters being well below normal, Kings River recreation has been left with little to go on in 2013.
“This was just a bad precipitation year,” said Kings County Supervisor Joe Neves.