Lake safety: Memorial Day expected to bring many to Texoma waters

Jerrie Whiteley
Herald Democrat
Boats like these from this 2018 file photo are expected to fill Lake Texoma this holiday weekend.

Lake Texoma is expecting to receive thousands of visitors this boating and swimming season. While those in charge of safety on the lake said they are excited that people are accessing the lake in high numbers, they caution that safety should be a priority.

Recently, the lake also saw an increase in the number of people who lost their lives to drowning last year with nine on Lake Texoma in 2020 which was more than doubled the number of the year before. In 2019, there were four and in 2018, there was only one. There was also only one in 2017 and there were three in 2016.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chief Park Ranger Billy Williams said last year was a stand out year for the lake in both good and bad ways. Lake traffic was definitely up with more people than ever spending time on the water as COVID-19 travel restrictions caused people to look for different ways to vacation closer to home.

The statistics reflect what rangers were told at the time of the incidents about what happened to people and are not reflective of the cause of deaths that might have eventually been entered by medical examiners.

Although the rangers know there were more boats on the lake last year and have heard that many of those were operated by first time boat owners, there were no statistics to show that the number of drownings were related to new boat owners.

"We don't ask (at the scene of a drowning) are they a new boater," he said. 

This summer is shaping up to be even busier this year.

"In talking to some of the marina folks on the lake is that their sales have sky rocketed again." 

Williams said it is important that people follow safety guidelines no matter how experienced a boater they may be and those include having a proper fitting life jacket for everyone on the boat.

"You don't want a child's lifejacket on an adult and vice versa," he said. And they should also have a working fire extinguisher, a working sounding device like a whistle or horn, and a designated driver if alcoholic beverages are  going to be consumed. Boat owners should also know and keep in mind the maximum number of people the boat is supposed to be able to accommodate at one time.  

Additionally, he said, new boat owners or those who have boated in a long while should take a boater safety class prior to getting on the water.

"It is just like you would in driving a car, you need to educate yourself about how to operate a boat safely and know the laws."

They should also use caution when going into areas of the lake that they may not be familiar with especially when allowing people to swim off the boat. 

Just checking these things off that boating to-do-list, he said, will ensure that people have a safer, and therefore more enjoyable experience on Lake Texoma this summer.