Department of Fish and Wildlife
Safety Stressed For Ohio River Boaters During Thunder Over Louisville On April 17

Press Release Date:  Thursday, April 08, 2010  
Contact Information:  Contact: Lee McClellan 1-800-858-1549, ext. 4443  

The fireworks and air show known as Thunder Over Louisville attracted more than 700,000 people last year. This year, Thunder Over Louisville on April 17 kicks off the celebration leading up to the Kentucky Derby on May 1.

A number of the spectators will watch the fireworks and air shows from their boat in the Ohio River. Boaters attending Thunder Over Louisville need to keep safety in mind.

“One of the biggest things we preach to boaters is that they need to watch the river level,” said Capt. Myra Minton, Third district law enforcement commander for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Make sure you have enough boat for the Ohio River. It is no place for small vessels.”

Boaters must also follow the rules of a no-wake zone that runs from Six Mile Island to a picket line set up by law enforcement near the Big Four Railroad Bridge. A no-wake zone is an area on the water where a boat must operate at idle speed to prevent throwing a wave or wake.

“They can’t go downstream of the picket line after noon on April 17,” Minton explained. “McAlpine Lock and Dam also closes at noon on that day. We will strongly enforce the no-wake zone, especially after dark.”

Since Thunder Over Louisville comes in April, it may the first time this year that people have had their boats in the water. It pays to be prepared.

“People haven’t run their boats much or at all at this time of year,” Minton said. “They must check their batteries, their navigation lights, and if the river is moving swiftly, they need a good anchor. They’ll run their batteries all day with their radios and later their navigation lights, and when they go to leave, their battery is dead. We have a few of those every year.”

Boaters also need to leave the alcohol at home. “Drinking alcohol on the waters of Kentucky is the same as drinking in public,” said Sgt. John Anderson, boating education coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s law enforcement division. “A lot of people think that it is okay to drink in a boat as long as the operator isn’t drinking. That is still considered drinking in public and is against the law.”

Anderson also cautions boaters to make sure they have enough lifejackets on board for all occupants along with a throw cushion. Children under the age of 12 must wear their lifejackets whenever the boat is under power. Wearing a lifejacket during the entire Thunder Over Louisville event is also a good idea for everyone, adult or child. Boaters also need to check their fire extinguishers and bring along a boat horn or loud whistle.

“Keep to the right side of the channel when under power on the Ohio River,” Anderson said. “Stay as far to the right as you safely can, just like on the highway.”

For more information on boating regulations, consult the 2010 Kentucky Fishing and Boating Guide available at or wherever fishing licenses are sold.