Planning Tips for Boaters During Heat Waves, Low Water

Posted on August 17, 2023

Oregon State Marine Board – 08/17/23 8:00 AM

The dog days of summer are in full effect, with water levels lowering on many reservoirs and rivers in Oregon. And with low water levels, boaters need to alter how they launch and retrieve, along with taking the time to research where they plan on recreating.

A hole and sediment buildup at the toe of the boat ramp during low water at Brownlee Reservoir, in Oregon.

When water levels drop, river and lake banks become very unstable and the material supporting the toe of boat ramps becomes more susceptible to damage from power loading. Power loading is a term to describe moving a boat from the water with the engine revved and the force pushes the boat onto the trailer. This creates a “prop wash” from the propeller (or jet) that creates a hole at the base or under the toe of the ramp and displaces the material into a potentially dangerous, shallow hump before the hole. When the toe of the ramp is undermined, the concrete or asphalt can crack or dislodge, leading to very costly repairs. In the worst cases, ramps cannot be rebuilt due to funding, permitting, and other natural dynamics. Consequently, the Marine Board is asking boaters to kill their motors and use a bow line assist or winch strap to guide the boat onto the trailer. This method has no impact on the ramp. Boaters also need to be courteous to one another during retrieving with any added time it may take with manual loading. Be sure to back the trailer into the water far enough where the tow vehicle’s rear wheels are partially submerged to the water line and the boat begins to float, making launching and retrieving much easier.

To help aid boaters with planning their August excursions, the Oregon State Marine Board also has several online resources and encourages boaters to do a little homework before venturing out to area waterways:

  • Check out the Opportunities and Access Report and subscribe if you’d like to receive the report in your email inbox. The report is updated as situations change, often weekly, during the summer months.
  • Bookmark the Boat Oregon Obstructions Map on your smartphone to learn where there are reported navigation obstructions. If boaters come across an obstruction not on the map, there’s a public interface and instructions on reporting using a mobile phone application tool (Boating Obstruction Reporting Tool -BORT).

Map Description automatically generatedThis map is like “Trip Check” for boaters. Information on the map is submitted by our marine law enforcement partners, other state agencies, outfitter guides, and the boating public.

To learn more about recreational boating and safety, visit


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