Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Water safety important now with rain swollen lakes and rivers
– The middle of July usually means less grass mowing because of the
parched, brown conditions of most lawns. Streams normally run low and clear in
mid-summer and concern about drought clouds people’s minds.
The Kentucky River
at Frankfort looks like a flowing ribbon of foamy chocolate milk. This week,
Buckhorn Lake in eastern Kentucky’s Leslie and Perry counties rose 13 ½ feet
above normal summer pool while central Kentucky’s Taylorsville Lake swelled to
18 ½ feet above it. The unusually high water makes for unsafe conditions for
boating, canoeing and kayaking as well as swimming on Kentucky lakes and
“I drove across
the dam at Taylorsville and there are floating tree tops and debris
everywhere,” said Maj. Shane Carrier, assistant director of law enforcement for
the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “High water causes lots
of floating debris which is extremely dangerous. Running at high speed or at
night is extremely difficult right now from the debris.”
Carrier and Zac
Campbell, boating safety coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, both
recommend reducing speed during the day during this high water period. “I would
also recommend only running at idle speed at night,” Carrier said.
The wacky weather
this year, beginning with record cold and snow and now with unseasonal
torrential rains in July, corresponds with 13 boating fatalities and a
dispiriting 25 accidental drowning in public waters so far in 2015. Kentucky
only suffered 10 boating fatalities and 11 people drowned in public waters all
of last year.
A pontoon boat
seems to the eye one of the safest and easiest boats to operate, but they are
actually problematic. Current makes pontoon boats hard to maneuver and their
canopy and tall sides catch the wind. They are often underpowered, especially
with several occupants aboard.
pontoons are the most commonly used boat by inexperienced operators. “When I
used to work Taylorsville Lake, it was common to see pontoon boats overloaded,”
he explained. “People would rent them and load them
Pontoon boats have
a capacity plate showing the weight limits and number of occupants for safe
operation of the boat. Operators must consult that plate before loading a
pontoon boat with people. Do not exceed the stated limits.
from rainfall are also dangerous. “The water right now in our streams is fun
for highly experienced whitewater runners,” Campbell said. “I have a lot of
experience in a kayak, but I wouldn’t get on most streams and rivers in
Kentucky right now.”
recommends paddlers wear their lifejacket at all times, regardless of water
level, but it can save your life if you upset in roaring water.
“You can download
our ‘Kentucky Boat Safe’ app onto your phone for free at either iTunes or on
Google Play,” he said. “Use this app to file a float plan before your trip.”
It is disturbing
to ponder on the 25 people who drowned so far in 2015 in public waters. Most
were simply having fun and tried to do too much.
misjudge the distance on the water because it’s flat,” Carrier said. “The other
side of the cove looks closer than it really is. People also overestimate their
ability when it comes to swimming.”
Several of the
drowning cases this year involved people swimming across coves for fun or to
fish or swimming out to navigational buoys and back.
can pressure people to do stuff above their ability,” Campbell said. “Many of
our reservoirs are flooded hilly regions. A lot of people don’t realize they
can be in 50 feet of water in two steps from the bank. Wear your lifejacket
always when swimming in public waters.”
is another dangerous factor impacting boat operators in summer. The combination
of sun, wind, motor noise and boat movement can induce a near trance-like
state, dulling reaction time.
“If you add the
consumption of alcohol into the mix, you make for a dangerous situation,”
Be careful when
boating during this high water period. “Your lifejacket doesn’t do you any good
if you aren’t wearing it,” Campbell said. “Remember, your lifejacket has your
back. Wear it all times with this high water.”