In casual conversation with long-time residents and stake-holders on the lake, the most oft-heard comment was, “it’s low, not the lowest it’s ever been; I’ve seen it this way …. twice since I’ve been here.” Twice! These memories bring two questions to mind: what’s “normal” and why is the lake level low this year?
How Low is Low?
It’s impossible to say with certainty what the “normal” lake level – better known as lake elevation – is this time of year. I searched for data that could tell the story and discovered that assigning a number may not have been so important in the past. I haven’t been able to find anyone who actively monitors the level of Hayden Lake today, nor any historical data.
At the Hayden Lake Marina, a gauge once stood beside one of the docks. The post on which it was mounted rotted away and fell into the water. A new piling has been identified and a marker for the Ordinary High-Water Mark (OHWM) installed. But, alas, no scale is in place. More-importantly, while the old gauge made spur-of-the-moment checking a breeze, there is no historical data associated with it.
My search started at the Hayden Lake Marina, then worked through every state and county agency who might have an interest, the University of Idaho, the City, and the Country Club. No historical data exists within reach at those sources. But everyone is a little surprised and curious, and in favor of keeping an eye on lake elevation data moving forward.
Today’s Lake Elevation: -5’10”
While a numerical measure of “normal” remains a mystery, I can tell you, with confidence, that today’s lake level is 5 feet, 10 inches below the Ordinary High-Water Mark (OHWM)The Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM) of Hayden Lake is 2239 feet above sea level. The State of Idaho owns, “in trust for the public, title to the bed of the navigable water below the OHWM as it existed at the time the state was admitted to the Union” (1). (July 3, 1890) This public property is in the care of the Idaho Department of Lands. I measured it myself from the new marker at the Hayden Lake Marina. That’s 3 inches below the level two weeks ago. How low will it go? Stay tuned; I’ll let you know!