The history behind Memorial Day
Lakegoers might have to skip some of their favorite activities this holiday weekend, depending on where they go.
Officials say the recent heavy rains have pushed water levels at lakes across Kansas above normal, leaving some campgrounds waterlogged, beaches closed and docks unusable.
Most of the headaches are at lakes in the eastern and south central portions of the state, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism spokesman Ron Kaufman said — including at Cheney Reservoir where record-high water levels led authorities to open flood gates Wednesday.
But elsewhere — luckily — things look brighter.
Most of the lakes in western Kansas are “in good shape,” Kaufman said, and don’t have flooding issues. Those include Cedar Bluff State Park, Meade State Park and Prairie Dog State Park, according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s website.
Closer to home, Lake Afton, at 24600 W. 39th St. South, will be “fully operational this weekend,” Sedgwick County spokeswoman Kate Flavin said. The lake isn’t flooded, she said, and all of the campsites are open.
There’s also “no more risk than normal” to visitors at most of Kansas’ state fishing lakes, Kaufman said — although he said he knows that people have favorite spots and may not be willing to travel.
“Each lake is a bit different. Each state park is a bit different. It just depends on what you’re looking for,” he said.
At Cheney Reservoir, officials are urging boaters and swimmers to stay out of the water for their safety, and telling fisherman to steer clear of areas without an accessible bank. And several people have already canceled their holiday reservations, Kaufman said, to avoid conditions expected to get even wetter with a weekend forecast full of storms.
For people who are braving the weather and flooding, some campsites are still available.
“We do not suggest people access the water. It is just too risky,” Kaufman said. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
The stories are similar at other nearby state parks with lakes, according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s website.
Fall River State Park in southeast Kansas has closed all of its campgrounds and day-use areas due to flooding. El Dorado State Park has several closed campgrounds and only one usable boat ramp.
At Eisenhower State Park, south of Topeka, nearly all primitive campsites are underwater and the beach and restroom are shuttered. Elk City State Park near Independence is completely closed and unreachable through the county road system.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said right now there is no immediate plan to increase reservoir releases. But that could change if continued rainfall causes their flood storage capacities to fill up, according to a news release.
People heading to one of Kansas’ lakes this weekend can still have fun but need to take extra precautions, Kaufman said.
He urged people to avoid swimming and to keep their pets out of the water due to floating debris and possible contamination. Currents can also change or get stronger with increased water levels, he said.
Boaters should stay out of lakes where docks and ramps are blocked off or flooded. Visitors should not go down barricaded roads or trails. But fishing from the banks and camping are OK in areas that aren’t closed or underwater.
Kaufman also urged lakegoers to be aware that flooding may mean more mosquitoes and that shoreline-dwelling animals are closer to campgrounds. For people wanting to cancel or postpone their camping reservations, state parks are offering refunds and other accommodations, he said.
“No one can control the weather, so we are all suffering in one way or another,” Kaufman said. “We just encourage folks to be patient with us.”
For more about conditions at a specific lake, visit its website. To see condition updates at state parks with lakes, go to www.ksoutdoors.com/State-Parks/State-Park-Alerts.