CHICO, Calif. — As the Northstate focuses on the lowering water levels at Lake Shasta and Oroville this past year, one smaller lake in Chico is now considered a puddle by those who frequent it thanks to California's drought.
Horseshoe Lake's shoreline in Upper Bidwell Park has dropped to levels so low that longtime residents don't recognize it. Marijke McSpadden caught a glimpse of the lake for the first time in months Wednesday morning.
"I'm still kind of digesting it. I haven't been here in a few months and I thought it was low when I was here the last time," says McSpadden, staring longingly over the cracked ground that once was submerged in water.
Chico's City Parks Division tells KRCR that they do not measure the lake levels, so it's difficult to determine exactly how much water has been lost. The visuals, however, are breathtaking to visitors, but not in a good way.
McSpadden, like many others, spent her summers by the lake fishing and swimming. Years later, she began bringing kids of her own to feed the ducks. It was a simple joy when the lake had the ability to accommodate all those activities. It cannot anymore.
"You used to be able to climb up Monkey Face and sit on the rocks and now there's just hardly even a puddle," says McSpadden.
Beyond sentimental connections, it's home to Chico's annual Hooked On Fishing, Not On Drugs event. Years past have seen 10,000 pounds of live catfish occupying the lake for the event that draws thousands of people.
Organizers for the event tell KRCR that the water levels are adding to the other difficulties already floating on the surface. Both events in 2020 and 2021 were canceled due to issues with their fish supplier. Even if that issue was sorted out before their next event in Spring 2023, they may be forced to find a new venue if the water stays this low.
It all comes in the midst of one of California's worst droughts yet. If the county doesn't see significant precipitation in the coming year, it could mean the cracked ground, lack of wildlife and barren view could become permanent.