LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – With a rise in temperatures and a three-day weekend approaching, thousands are headed to Lake Mead, despite safety concerns that continue to linger both above and below the surface.
The Lees, for one, ended a week-long boating trip on Wednesday, right before a wave of new boaters, and their activities, come in.
“I try to stay away from everybody,” Gary Lee said as his group loaded their boat at the Lake Mead Marina. “(Other boaters were) pulling a double tube behind them and they were crashing into each other. It looked pretty dangerous to me.”
National Park Service (NPS) rangers, like Alberto Flores, say they will be out in droves beginning this weekend. They’re looking for drunk drivers, unsafe boat operations, and life jackets for everyone who is required to wear one. Federal law requires people 13 years of age and younger to wear one while on a boat.
If they resist the rules, Flores says, “they could potentially face fines and-or their time in Lake Mead to end at that point.”
But, concerns are not always man-made and also lie with the topography and environment.
In the most unlikely of places, hoses on NPS boats are used to contain brush fires on the shore and fueling mishaps on the water, which Lake Mead Recreation Area Superintendent Justin Pattison says happens “more than you’d think.”
Additionally, he points to the obstacles that continue to pop out of the water, even as the lake has raised three feet from this time last year.
“Little, tiny islands that are kind of cropping up in the middle of the lake and various spots,” Pattison said during a boat tour Wednesday morning.
But, a larger concern: drowning. With over 40 incidents within the last six years on the lake, Pattison says many have been traced back to “pool toys” and people not wearing life jackets. The most recent drowning was a 44-year-old man in September, who NPS rangers say was not wearing a life jacket.
“Windy days like this, folks get out on the water with a pool toy, and they become complacent, and they’re quickly blown out further into the lake. If they don’t have a life jacket on, those can result in significant injuries and sometimes in death,” Pattison said.
Even if just up to your waist, Pattison recommends everybody wears a properly fitted life vest while in the water, though federal law does not require it for people unless they are 13 years of age or younger and on a boat.
Additionally, Flores says most pool toys are not allowed on the lake unless they are approved by the United States Coast Guard. All five launch ramps are now open on the lake, with expectations they will remain open throughout the calendar year.