Low water, cool weather cut Memorial Day crowds

It’s been a slow start to Memorial Day weekend at nearby lakes and lower than normal water conditions could be keeping some people at bay.

But it didn’t keep Mitch Asbury and fiancée Kathy McFarland of Clearwater away from El Dorado Lake on Saturday morning, despite the lake being four and a half feet below normal.

Asbury was anxious to christen the new 20-foot boat they bought last month. It’s so new, in fact, they haven’t yet decided on a name.

They usually go out to Lake Wilson or Table Rock, but just wanted to do a day trip this year and El Dorado was closest. They were a little concerned about the water being low.

“We’re just going to stay out of the coves,” McFarland said.

El Dorado State Park Office Administrative Specialist Ashley Hall said it’s been slower than in the past few years and that it could be a combination of low water, water and air temperature and earlier forecasts for rain.

Shady Creek Marina Manager Debbie Haled said she just suggests people take it slow and easy while trying to get the boats in and out and while cruising.

“We do have a lot of stumps, but if you stay in the main part, you’re fine,” she said.

There have been many folks at the lake who usually go to Cheney, she said.

“Usually our Memorial Day traffic starts Friday but it was really slow and today is slowing picking up,” she said. “The main factor is that water is still cold. It’s like 64 degrees, so it’s still pretty chilly.”

For the last 10 years, Larry Greider and his wife, Kim, of Derby have been coming out to El Dorado Lake. They have a houseboat named “Liquid Assets,” complete with a flat screen TV.

“This is the lowest I’ve ever seen it,” Greider said from his slip at Shady Creek Marina. The couple came out to the lake Friday night after work.

He thinks the shallow water now could be keeping boaters away this weekend.

“Everybody is scared to get on boats and if you hit a tree stump, it just tears and is very expensive to fix,” he said. “With the economy, you don’t want anybody to fix it if you do tear it up and have to pay your deductibles. But I wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world. This is a great getaway.”

While prepping his two boats, “Aquadesiac” and “Baker’s Beast,” Brian Baker of Derby said he knew several people from Cheney camping at El Dorado this year.

“Cheney’s a big old mud puddle right now,” he said.

His plans for the extended weekend?

“We’re going to go out, enjoy the sun today, throw an anchor out, kick back and drink.”

Cheney Reservoir

Cheney Reservoir is about six and half feet below normal, said Mike Satterlee, park ranger at Cheney State Park, and the traffic at the lake may be tied to that.

“This is my fifth summer here,” Satterlee said. “The first three years, this holiday weekend, it was packed, with people crawling all over and no campsites available. This one is more like last Memorial weekend.”

Satterlee said that although rain is becoming less likely, he doesn’t anticipate a big rush of traffic for the rest of the weekend. They still have campsites available.

“I don’t know whether it’s the fact that gas is $4 a gallon or the lake level is playing into it,” he said. “It’s still six and a half feet low. I’m not sure what the major factor is, but we’re not full like a normal holiday weekend.”

He said there is some boat traffic and the marina boat ramp is operational.

“I’ve seen all sizes of boats launching from that ramp, he said. “With the boat traffic, I caution everybody that we are low and you can’t really see what’s right below the water level and there could be tree stumps.”

Satterlee said utility campsites are about 85 percent full and primitive campsites are only about 10 percent full.

El Dorado campsites

El Dorado State Park office administrative specialist Ashley Hall said there are still campsites available surrounding the lake. As of Friday night, the park had:

• 81 spots open out of 116 in Shady Creek

• 235 spots open out of 500 at Bluestem

• 140 spots open out of 160 at Boulder Bluff.

The Walnut River and Bemis Creek campsites are full, she said.

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