Tag Archives: Canadian River

Lake welcoming human company


LAKE MEREDITH, Texas — A few months back, I wrote a story for NewsChannel10.com about the health of Lake Meredith and the 44,000-acre national recreation area that surrounds it.

National Park Service officials told me the lake was doing quite well these days, thanks to the rainfall and the river flow that has poured into the lake, increasing its depth to more than 65 feet, which isĀ a good bit greater than the 26-foot depth to which it fell in 2013.

So today, some members of my family and I took a look for ourselves.

The park officials weren’t kidding.


The lake is doing very well. It’s crawling with human visitors who today flocked to the lake to get take advantage of its refreshment from the 100-degree summer days that have been baking the Texas Panhandle for what seems like forever.

We went to Fritch Fortress, which is a boat ramp/swimming hole/ fishing pier.

As the picture illustrates, we were far from alone this day.

By the time we packed up, traffic was backing up along the drive to the boat ramp as boaters were backing their craft into the lake.

We don’t go all that often to Lake Meredith. My wife and I don’t own a boat, although I understand fully that the recreation area contains a lot ofĀ amenities fit for other activities.

There once was a time when I worried about Lake Meredith and its viability as a tourist attraction. Today, I am not as concerned as I was when the Lake Meredith was threatening to become known as Puddle Meredith.

This year, the National Park Service turns 100.

Lake Meredith NRA has been a part of that network of federal parks since 1965, when the government completed work on Sanford Dam. Granted, the lake isn’t as high as once was, but it’s in a damn sight better condition than it was just a few years ago.

The sight of all that water and all the enjoyment it gives to those of us who live — and those who come here to visit — gives me hope for the lake’s future.

The river’s a flowin’ once again

canadian river

Take a good look at this picture, which I pulled down from my Facebook feed.

It confirms what a fellow I met Friday told me. It’s not that I disbelieved him, but it’s nice to see visual evidence of what he said.

This is the Canadian River, upstream from Lake Meredith. The fellow I met told me he lives in Keyes, Okla., and he came to Amarillo to take care of some business. He said he’d “hadn’t seen the river flowing like this since, oh,Ā I don’t know when.”

This picture confirms some very good news for the formerly parched Texas Tundra.

That water is flowing rapidly into Lake Meredith, the body of water once derided as “Puddle Meredith.” They built a dam across the river, finishing the job in 1965. The dam backed the water up behind it, forming Lake Meredith about 55 miles north of Amarillo. It rose eventually to more than 100 feet in depth.

Then it receded, ever so slowly, for lots of reasons. Heavy irrigation. Growing urban consumption. Salt cedar trees planted to protect against soil erosion, but which turned out to be thirstier than anyone imagined. Evaporation and a lack of rainfall.

Now the tide is turned, if you’ll pardon the metaphor.

El Nino has been warming the Pacific Ocean currents. The storms have been more frequent coming in from the coast. Snow runoff in the Rocky Mountains has helped as well.

El Nino, of course, is creating serious havoc as well, as our neighbors in Mexico and in downstate Texas are finding out as they’re coping with that monstrous Hurricane Patricia. We all wish them well and pray for their safety.

Lake Meredith, which saw its depth reduced to about 26 feet in 2013, is now back to more than 60 feet. And it’s rising.

Water authorities had stopped pumping from the lake. Now they’re pumping again.

OK. Is there a lesson here?

Sure there is. Let’s not assume that we’ll have this water forever.

IĀ prefer to continue to act as though we’re still in drought conditions.

Many of us got pretty nervous around here when the lake shrunk so badly. Remember that time?

Enjoy the rain and the river flow that comes with it. However, let’s not get smug.


Rain, rain, rain … keep thinking ‘drought’

Even as I write this brief post, let us ponder something that seems nonsensical.

The Texas Panhandle has been drenched — and that’s a relative term — for the year to date. We’ve exceeded our annual precipitation average, and it’s only the eighth day of July. It’s raining again tonight. Hard.

Should we consider the drought to be over? You’re welcome to do so, if you wish. We intend at our house to continue operating as if we’re in a drought.

We won’t water the lawn, which of course is quite obvious, given that we’ve had plenty of moisture already. We intend to watch our indoor water consumption. When it dries out, we’ll keep our lawn-wateringĀ to a minimum.

We only average about 20 inches of rain per year on what I call the Texas Tundra. We’ve reached that total already in 2015.

Our playas are full. Lake Meredith’s levels keep rising. Who knows? Perhaps they might even release some water upriver at Ute Lake, allowing it to flow down the Canadian River into Lake Meredith.

Water planners said this all could happen if we kept the faith and were careful with our water resources.

Our water condition is much better than it was just two years ago.

Remember, though: The drought took years to develop and it’ll take years to be abated fully.

Pumping water saves water? Sure it does

Allow me this admission.

Sometimes — maybe more often than I care to admit — I’m a bit slow on the uptake when it involves certain elements of science.

I’m not a scientist. Or a mathematician. Or an accountant. Numbers and scientific theories boggle me.

So it is with that caveat that I suggest that I am beginning to accept the notion that pumping water out of Lake Meredith to 11 cities throughout the Panhandle actually saves surface water that collects in the lake.


The Canadian River Municipal Water Authority is starting to pump water out of the lake in the wake of recent rainfall that has continued to restore the lake levels to something far greater than puddle designation.

Kent Satterwhite, general manager of CRMWA, said: “Everything we pump out of the lake is one gallon less than we pump out of the (Ogallala) aquifer.” He said it is “really important. The aquifer as you use it, it’s gone. It recharges to some slight degree … So it’s really important to try to preserve it and that’s why the lake is here to take some of the heat off the aquifer.”

Who knew?

Pumping water also maximizes the quality of the water, Satterwhite said. The Canadian River contains salt that evaporates more easily during dry periods.

Lake Meredith’s levels have risen fairly dramatically in recent days. It’s nearly at 50 feet, which is far greater than the 26 feet it measured in 2013. OK, so the lake isĀ now about halfway toward its historic high of 100-plus feet set back in the early 1970s.

I guess I’m tryingĀ to express some appreciationĀ of theĀ knowledge that water managers must have to monitor this priceless resource.

The region depends on itĀ at almost every level imaginable. There must beĀ some faith placed in theĀ individuals charged with ensuring we keep it as close to forever as we can.

Lake Meredith returning to glory?

What’s with some of this open speculation about the possibility of pumping water out of Lake Meredith, just north of Amarillo?

Don’t even think about it.


The Canadian River Municipal Water Authority, which used to pump water from the once-full lake, says it’s risen several feet because of recent rain that’s drenched the Texas Panhandle. Why, it’s up to 36 feet, about 10 feet higher than when it hit its lowest point.

Yeah, that’s a big deal. It’s not such a big deal, though, to signal a return to pumping water from the lake to cities up and down West Texas.

The drought that remains — yes, we’re still in a drought around here — has reduced the quality of the water. Pumping it would require expensive treatment to make the water fully potable.

Besides, let’s remember also that Lake Meredith — even in its replenished state — is still far below its historic high and is unlikely to return to that level any time soon, if ever.

The recent rain has been welcome and well could signal a dramatic turn for the better in our weather pattern. Then again, it might not mean anything at all.

Do we pump water once again from Lake Meredith? Perish the thought.

Fourth night, more rain

For as much I used to bitch about the weather while growing up in rainy, damp, dank, dark, Portland, Ore., I’m really loving this rainy, damp, dank, dark weather here on the High Plains of the Texas Panhandle.

You see, this is not normal here.

Normal weather bores me to tears. I got bored and disgusted with all that rain back in my hometown. In my current hometown, Amarillo, I’ve grown bored and disgusted with the incessant, relentless sunshine.

Oh, have I mentioned the wind that blows constantly around here?

It’ll take some time for me to grow bored with this moisture. Heaven knows we’ve all prayed our brains out for it to arrive.

I’ve heard some good news about Lake Meredith, about how the Canadian River is actually flowing and that it’s dumping water into the lake. I see the playas — particularly McDonald Lake up the street from our home — filling with water almost to overflowing.

How can I complain about that? Given the drought we’ve had for seemingly forever, you won’t hear a discouraging word from me.

It’ll take some time for me to become bored with this rain.

Keep it coming.

Flooding produces some benefit

I truly do not wish bad things to happen to my fellow Americans in nearby states.

However, I noticed something the other morning on a local TV news broadcast that suggests that the Texas Panhandle has received some benefit from the misery inflicted on our neighbors northwest of us in Colorado.

The deluge that destroyed so much property and took those lives north of Boulder a few weeks ago has produced a dramatic rise in the levels of Lake Meredith, about 50 miles north of Amarillo. KAMR-TV, the local NBC affiliate, runs a weather crawl when it broadcasts local news in the morning. Until the flooding inundated Colorado, the Lake Meredith water level as shown on the crawl had bottomed out at something just below 27 feet.

Monday morning, the lake level registered on the crawl put the water at 33-plus feet. That’s a nearly 7-foot increase in the water at Lake Meredith.

OK, it’s not much of an increase, given the lake’s historic high of 100-plus feet in the early 1970s.

It’s a start — perhaps — to a change in fortune at the manmade reservoir.

The water has rushed down the Front Range of the Rockies, onto the High Plains, into the Canadian River, which feeds Lake Meredith. Perhaps even better news would be that whatever water hasn’t flowed into the lake has seeped into the Ogallala Aquifer, which also has been depleted over many years.

I just wish now that the Almighty would grant us some more moisture — without inflicting such pain upstream.

I think I’ll pray some more.