The Woodward News

Local News

May 22, 2014

Safety, responsibility important as visitors gather at area lakes

With the approaching holiday, local lakes will be ramping up safety awareness and reminding people to make this holiday one where there is only celebration and no tragedy, said Fort Supply Lake Chief Ranger Don Underwood.

"Anything around the water, where jet skis and boats are concerned, we are encouraging that everyone, no matter their age, wear their properly fitted life jacket," Underwood said.

But safety concerns reach farther than just while visitors are on the water.

"We always have a number of folks who think that alcohol makes the party better. But in most incidences, alcohol makes the problem. In almost all our incidences, alcohol is some how involved," Underwood said.

Underwood simply asks people to be responsible, not drink at all if operating any vehicle, whether on water or driving a car and to drink responsibly if they are going to be drinking.

"There is always tomorrow, you don't have to drink it all in one day, you can skip that last one and put it off till tomorrow," he said.

Adding to complications and pressure on area lakes is the long standing drought, reaching well into its fourth year.

The statewide drought in 2012 caused significant troubles for Canton Lake when much of the water in the lake was released to help supply Oklahoma City with water.

However, despite still being about 12 feet lower than normal the lake still draws many to its shores, said Canton Civil Engineering Tech Debbie Chaloupek.

For instance there were 100 more registered fishermen than last year for the Canton Walleye Rodeo.

"Two hundred kids sighed up for the kid's fishing derby and it just seemed like there were a lot more people here than last year," Chaloupek said. "The fishing has been really good."

Swimming at Canton Lake is still not suggested without properly checking an area out very well so swimmers understand what is under the water they are swimming in, she said.

"Well, our normal swimming beach is still high and dry and if you plan to swim in other areas, they have not been cleared, so swimmers need to be careful," she said.

There are two boating ramps at Canton that have about four feet of water for boaters to off load, she said. "But boaters need to stay in areas closer to the dam where the water is deeper," she said.

She also suggests that boaters take extra care, since the lake is so low, to watch for obstacles that might be too close to the surface and cause dangerous problems.

"Also, since there are possible storms this weekend forecasted, people need to watch the weather and be weather smart," she said.

The Governor's burn ban, of course still in effect going into the Memorial Day Holiday weekend, Underwood said.

"Fire is a big concern right now," Underwood said. "We are included in the Governor's burn ban. But oddly, the rules do say they can use charcoal grills but they have to be on a pedestal. The ones we provide are approved. They can bring their own, but even though the rules say they can use a charcoal grills, if they start a fire, they will be the responsible party."

Ground fires (traditional camp fires) and tiki torches of any kind will not be permitted, Underwood said.

The good news is Fort Supply Lake is maintaining a good water level, Underwood said.

"Apparently the levels are right about normal," he said. "We are in good shape comparatively with other lakes."

While sand bass might be slowing down a little as temperatures rise, the catfish are starting to hit, he said. "It's really just good for fishing and as long as we can get some fresh water into the lake and keep our elevation the fishing will be great."

Both lakes are booked for the holiday weekend, said Underwood and Chaloupek. Although Chaloupek advises calling the National Reservation Service to be sure,  at 1-877-444-6777.

At present, both lakes have primitive sites open on a first come first serve basis.

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