Low water levels create dangerous swimming conditions


CHICO, Calif. - The city of Chico said the low amount of water flowing through Big Chico Creek is exposing dangerous obstacles upstream

Popular places like Bear Hole and Sycamore Pool in Bidwell Park could see a drastic change this summer following a winter that left barely any snow pack.

The water levels at Big Chico Creek in Upper Bidwell Park have dropped ninety percent in two years.

"I think that has to do with lower ground water because of the dry year," said Dan Efseaff, parks and resource manager for the City of Chico. Normally, strainers like rocks and tree branches would be covered with water this time of year, and swimmers wouldn't have to worry about them until late October. Park rangers are seeing the water drop now, and dangerous objects showing up. "At some point it's going to be better for hiking than swimming," Efseaff said. Strainers push the water at high pressure under rocks and drag the swimmer down. The water is supposed to cover the rocks. With no rain in sight, the dangers of drowning are increasing. "We got six more months basically before the creek starts bumping up again," Efseaff said.

On a good year, 100 cubic feet of water would flow through every second. This year, the flow has dropped down to the single digits. "That's a hundred basketballs coming down the creek to go through in one second. This year we are about nine to ten," Efseaff said. The low water levels are also posing a problem at the Sycamore Pool. Algae is building because the water is warming upstream, and it will take longer for the pool to fill up after crews clean it once a week. "We have regular monitoring at the pool and we are going to keep an eye on it very close this summer," Efseaff said.

Park Rangers said two dogs have been killed recently do to the unsafe conditions. It best advised to be aware of your surroundings when swimming in the creek and never swim alone.