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Water levels may be low but camping spirit is high at Cheney Reservoir

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, Sep. 2, 2012, at 11:05 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, at 2:53 p.m.

Did you know?

Beginning next year, an annual park pass will be $15 when purchased with a vehicle registration.

Cabins are available at Cheney State Park and other state parks. More information and reservations are available by visiting www.reserveamerica.com.

If you want to go to Cheney Reservoir this Labor Day, chances are you won’t have to fight crowds.

While people were out swimming, camping and cooking at the lake Sunday, visitors were down from last year because of the hot weather and the depth of the lake.

Only one of the state park’s 12 boat ramps was functional as water levels were low.

Andrew Hoskins of Wichita said the ramp he usually uses at the west beach led to “just sand,” no water.

“You can’t put a boat in over there,” Hoskisn said of the ramp on the west beach.

Hoskins and friends moved to the other side of the lake and planned to hit the water Sunday afternoon and evening. They brought a jet ski with them and hoped to get it in the water somewhere.

Park Manager Ryan Stucky said the number of visitors was down about half from a normal Labor Day weekend.

“We’re a boating lake,” Stucky said, “and with the low lake level, you have to go clear out to get a boat put in at the east boat ramp at the marina,” he said.

Cheney Reservoir was about 95 percent full for RV camping and about 25 percent full for tent camping. The lake was about 5.5 feet low for this time of year.

Fewer visitors means less revenue.

And unfortunately, Stucky said, “it still costs the same amount to operate the lake.”

The lake makes most of its revenue from the three major summer holiday weekends — Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

Stucky estimated that after the three-day weekend was over, the lake likely would see about 20,000 visitors. That’s down about 50 percent, he said.

“It’s just tough,” he said.

People still were having fun, though.

Kelby Belcher of Arlington, about 30 miles west of Hutchinson, came out with about 12 family members to camp at Smarsh Creek and swim.

“This is the first place we could swim, actually,” she said, noting low water levels too.

Belcher said her family comes to the lake a few times each summer.

The temperature hit 100 on Sunday, and the water “feels amazing,” Belcher said.

Stucky said visitor numbers at other area lakes are down, too.

A day permit to the lake is $4.20 per vehicle. An annual park pass is $25. But beginning next year, annual passes will be $15 when purchased with a vehicle registration.

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