The jagged cracks running through the drying mud on the bottom of Medina Lake are up to 3 feet deep. As the water level drops, the cracks grow into a labyrinth of minicanyons around free-standing dirt towers supported by gelatinous muck.
Exposed by the receding water are hundreds of rusting 55-gallon drums, a Jeep, a hot tub and everything else that once sank in the lake. Homeowners along the shore are trying to make the best of it by organizing a day of trash removal next month along with the annual cleanup of the Medina River.
It’s one of the few benefits of the lake now being only 6.5 percent full.
“We are encouraging people to take advantage of the opportunity,” Karen Ripley said as she looked out over the exposed lake bottom from her home.
The rain Tuesday and Wednesday briefly stalled the decline of the lake level, which has been falling since the start of the drought in October 2010. But by Thursday afternoon, it was dropping again.
Until rules banned their use in 1977, the metal drums were commonly used by homeowners as dock floats, Ripley said. They often would break free and their rusting remains now litter the muddy bottom.
Ripley’s neighbor, Don Sloan, paid to have 52 removed from his shoreline last year. Since then, he said, another 30 more have been exposed.
He chuckles at the irony: He soon may be able to explore on foot a Mormon settlement his wife once tried to reach by scuba diving.
The lake is almost 80 feet below full, a low not seen since the drought of the 1950s. Just one working public boat ramp remains, and the fish population that is dropping faster than the water level.