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Jackson Lake Dropping To Historic Low Levels Due To Drought

Visitors launch a motor boat at one of Jackson Lake's boat ramps.
C. Adams
Visitors launch a motor boat at one of Jackson Lake's boat ramps.

Water levels at several reservoirs in the region are dropping to record lows because of the extreme drought across the West. That will soon include Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park, as it's expected to be drawn down to levels only seen three times in the last 30 years.

Jackson Lake Dam provides water for irrigation for the Upper Snake River Basin. Most of that is used by farmers in Idaho. Currently, the dam is drawing down the resource at a rate between 3.5 to 4 inches per day.

"This just doesn't happen that often," said C.J. Adams, an interpretive park ranger at Grand Teton National Park.

As a result, Colter Bay boat ramp has closed to motorized vessels. Additionally, marinas in lower parts of the lake, like Leek's and Signal Mountain may be forced to do the same as soon as late August.

Adams said releases from the dam will also make for abnormal conditions on the Snake River for this time of year. That will include swifter than typical currents through the month of August, before the river drops down to levels that would be minimum winter flows.

"As a result of that, scenic float trips and the guided fishing operations that you see on the Snake River will probably—their seasons will be reduced by a few weeks," he said.

Weather conditions like rain could change plans, but Adams said that doesn't look likely to happen.

Current conditions can be found here.

Maggie Mullen is Wyoming Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. Her work has aired on NPR, Marketplace, Science Friday, and Here and Now. She was awarded a 2019 regional Edward R. Murrow Award for her story on the Black 14.
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