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Weather Woes

A cold, wet, windy spring and summer impacts boating season in the Heartland.

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Seven barges broke free at the Marseilles Dam.
Seven barges broke free and damaged the Marseilles [Ill.] Dam.

Cumberland Blues?
Although locations on the Cumberland River report things are pretty normal now, the overall feeling is that the season got pushed back a month.

The Granville Marina in Granville, Tenn., said they were about six weeks behind because of the cold and wet weekends.

Everybody was waiting for next week, but next week came six weeks later said a representative at Anchor High Marina in Hendersonville, Tenn.

High water kept Rottgering Marine in Eddyville, Ky., on Lake Barkley, from using their boat lift for a week, but they were able to use their floating docks for some of the repairs they had scheduled. George Blair said discussions among area marina owners generally concluded there was about a one-month delay to the season.

The Tennessee and Tenn-Tom
Big issues on the Tennessee River were the cold temperatures, rain on the weekends and rarely getting two good days in a row. Water levels frequently fluctuated, as dams were raised and lowered to control the flow and the rising water repeatedly picked up lots of shore debris and flushed it downstream.

The Volunteer Landing Marina in Knoxville experienced a huge amount of debris and strong currents. Nearby Tellico Marine reported that, while they “didn’t get spring,” things ended up being about a month late.

“A terrible spring” is how Mike Fenton at Louisville Landing put it. “It’s been a lousy year so far.” His location also had a lot of trash in the water. He said they had good weather in March, but then it changed for the worse. A third of his dry storage boats weren’t commissioned at press time, which is “unheard of.”

At Chickamauga Marina in Chattanooga, Melanie Dean said all the rain put them “way behind the eight-ball.” But, she added, boaters have been taking advantage now and making up for lost time. Although the weather didn’t affect their sales much, MarineMax of Chattanooga had to close their downtown docks, and business there was off 75 percent early on.

The best news at Leatherwood Resort and Marina in Dover, Tenn., was that there was “fabulous fishing” after suffering through a period where it seemed to rain every Saturday or Sunday. Mike Romano at Kenlake Marina in Hardin, Tenn., concurred that the “crappie season is one of the best.”

Overall, the spring weather was not a big deal on the Tenn-Tombigbee Waterway, but there were a couple related issues.

Unseasonably cool temperatures and more rain than normal delayed the start of the season at Grand Harbor Marina at Pickwick Lake in Counce, Tenn., but the biggest factor at Midway Marina in Fulton, Miss., was that transients weren’t moving upstream due to the high water further north.

Fred Hansard at Demopolis Yacht Basin in Demopolis, Ala., said they had the normal rain and flooding and really had no problems.

Inland Lake Levels
A check of lakes and reservoirs at various places yields mixed results. On Lake Wawasee in northern Indiana, Doug Anderson at Wawasee Boat Sales reported a slow start but good water levels and plenty of service work. “Last year,” he said, “we couldn’t buy rain. This year, it seems like it rained every day.”

In southern Indiana at Patoka Lake, there were heavy spring rains but nothing serious. They also had some “good blows” but “just battened down the hatches.”

Lake Cumberland in southern Kentucky had unseasonably cool weather and got hit early with some strong storms. State Dock Marina reported 90-mile per hour winds that damaged some boats. Gary Peterson at Jamestown Marina said the weather hurt their business and left them “scrambling to get things done.”

The good news on that lake is that repairs to the Wolf Creek Dam are almost done, the pool level is good and the fishing forecast is very good due to the extra vegetation growth while the water was low.

The turnaround at Table Rock Lake State Park Marina in Missouri came around Memorial Day. They were off about 20 percent until then.

There was little winter in the Lake of the Ozarks until March, but then cool, wet weather delayed activities there also. Carolyn at Bergers Marina said their spring was “horrible,” with lots of rainy and windy days. They even had sleet the first weekend in May.

There was “not a whole lot of spring” on Dale Hollow Lake in Tennessee, according to Brad Richardson at Sunset Marina and Resort. Good days during the week gave way to bad weekends that kept business slow until around Memorial Day. Over the Fourth, they had about six inches of rain, pushing lake levels up three feet and limiting beaching locations for houseboats. “It’s the worst Fourth in the 17 years I’ve been here,” he said.

It was a similar story at Lake Martin in Alabama. Cold weather in March and April combined with heavy rain pushed the season opening back. Then, the Fourth of July was pretty well rained out.

Bull Shoals in Arkansas had some early rain that raised the pool level, but they are used to that according to the Lakeview Cove Marina. They also had some high wind with no serious damage.          

Drought in Texas
Boating in Texas continues to be seriously affected by what is close to being declared a record-setting drought. Lake and reservoir levels in the state range measure as low as 1.19 percent full in some areas. And, unfortunately, spring rain came in the wrong places to help out.

In Del Rio on Lake Amistad, the National Park Service has posted warnings that current levels have produced dangers different from those even in 1998, when record low levels were reached. As of July 8, the recorded level fell below the 1998 number. Most launch ramps were closed, and marinas are constantly adjusting docks.

At Lakeway Marina on Lake Travis, near Austin, manager Jody Allen said the lake is 36 percent full but dropping about a foot a week. Launch ramps are closed, and some folks are launching from the shore in places. Boats in slips are able to go out. Allen said her outside clients are gone and business is down substantially. Without rain, the long term forecast is not good.

This year’s spring weather once again points out some similarities between boaters and farmers. The weather strongly affects both groups, and they tend to be troubled about similar things like too much water or not enough, temperatures that are too hot or too cold, or conditions that are too wet or too dry.

The only solution seems to be, like the Chicago Cubs, wait until next year.

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