Dangerously Low Water Levels on Table Rock Lake Ground Boats

The Missouri Water Patrol takes KSPR on a tour of Table Rock Lake to us how accidents have increased as a result of unusually low water levels exposing dangerous obstacles.

August 10, 2012|Joanna Small and Joel Girdner | Reporter and Photographer

BRANSON, Mo. — Table Rock Lake is full of people but not water.  The Army Corps of Engineers says it's dealing with "extremely unusual" conditions due to the widespread drought.
  The lake is at just under 910 feet when it should be at 917, and the corps is predicting another 3.5 foot drop in August just due to evaporation and hydro power demands.  That's got boaters on high alert-- or at least it should.

  Rock Lane Marina's general store is home to a graveyard of sorts.

  "Where's Danny White's?"  Thomas Rokusek says, looking through a pile of torn up propellers.  Here lies Danny White's propellar.  It met its untimely demise on Point One.

  "Point One is the big deal; it's where the majority of people always hit," and where the majority of boats go to die.

  "I think we've changed approximately eight to ten props this year that have been damaged."  That's considerably more than usual, says Rokusek.  "It's been a lot worse," the assistant manager adds.

  Lake levels are down roughly 7 feet but just a couple of feet makes a pretty big difference.  Suddenly obstacles never visible before are sticking up out of the water and creating quite a problem.

  "The tree trunks, tops of trees appear, around islands where it's a peninsula-- the land will start to appear," explains Sergeant Mark Green with the Water Patrol.
  When the lake's just a tad higher all of those lurk some times mere inches below the surface.  Green says danger buoys-- the ones with the red diamonds-- are meant to steer boaters away from danger, but they're often ignored.

  "They're trying to save time by cutting the points," he tells us.

  Or in one case we witnessed Friday afternoon, navigating through a shallow channel.

  "We looked at it before we went through," a pair of jetskiers told us, after clearing just a foot of water.  Green says they got lucky.

  "We've probably had to work about five to six accidents where the boats have grounded and there's been several more where they've just gotten help and pushed off."

  But their propellers rarely survive.

  "I've had to change the prop on this one twice this year," Rokusek says, pointing to one of Rock Lane's rental boats.

  The damaged parts often end up in his shop.  May their tragic end be a lesson to all those who dare challenge the perilous Point One.

  There is some good news.  Cooler temperatures the last few days have meant less hydro power and evaporation on the lake and so far the levels in August haven't dropped at the rate the Corps anticipated.

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