Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Rest of the Story

Shoreline of Black Kettle Lake.

While the history is interesting, this is supposed to primarily be a paddling blog, as hard as that is here. So, I will finish the account of the rest of this trip and the conditions encountered. I still want to go back to Custer and the Battle of Washita, but will probably do that as a review of the book “Washita: The U.S. Army and the Southern Cheyennes, 1867-1869” by Jerome A. Greene.

Leaving the Washita site and Cheyenne, this is what I faced. Foss Lake, a large body with a 42 miles shoreline, as I mentioned in another post, is still down 26% of lake capacity from last year. The feeder streams and coves that would be most interesting are dry. Then Clinton Lake is closed because there is no water in the lake. The next in line was Elk City Lake. The city has built a nice park along the lake, which is supposed to contain 240 surface acres of water with a 6 mile shoreline. Instead, it was about a three acre shallow puddle with foreign objects sticking above the surface. The water was so far from the end of the boat ramps that getting from the ramp to the water would have required a portage. I decided to move along and try the next lake on my list, but in spite of the inability to gain any lake condition information previously, I felt it necessary to call ahead once again.

Rocky Lake, 347 acres and 8 miles of shoreline, is under the authority of the City of Hobart. It was after 4 o’clock on a Friday, so I knew I was pushing the envelope for reaching people. I called the listed number for lake information, and got a recording from the Chamber of Commerce. The lady that made the recording had indeed added a cell phone contact number for when she wasn’t available in the office, so I called her there. She had no information on the lake, and suggested I call the city police, which I did. She also said there was no fishing allowed, but didn’t know why, how long it was prohibited, or who I could contact for additional information. DeLorme lists Rocky Lake as a fishing destination, so while I wasn’t planning on fishing, the ban was puzzling. I went the next step and called the city police. They knew nothing about the lake, nothing about the fish ban, and didn’t patrol the area around the lake. While the lake is the town’s reservoir, it is ten miles out of town, and the city police are responsible only for what is inside the town limits, so I had followed the lead, but wasn’t surprised by the result. They didn’t think the county sheriff patrolled the lake either, but suggested I call him.

I decided this was getting me nowhere, so I’d just go on to Rocky Lake. I was sure I could pitch a tent somewhere. In fact, I might even be able to paddle the lake before it got dark. So even though it was a 70-mile round-trip shot in the dark, I decided to go for it. When I got there, I found the answer to my fishing question. The lake was closed due to toxic algae and a large fish kill. When I got to the ramp, it was doubly painful, because the lake was brimming with water. I got out and looked, and the lake was full of green snot, for want of a better description. I was even tempted for a bit to throw Ibi in the water anyhow, but since some algae is harmful even to humans, and there had already been a large fish kill, I decided discretion was in order. So, now what?

The next lake was still some distance off, camping was not allowed there, and now being Friday evening there was no chance of getting further information. I was at a dead end, with nothing to do but head back home. In all, I had driven 296.9 miles to paddle three miles. It was interesting, a full day out of the house, but a bit of a let-down.

Then, this morning a public service announcement appears on the television concerning the lakes. The slogan is, “If it’s green on top--STOP!” Then, from June 21, this story appeared on Channel 12 news. “A new website developed by the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department allows people to check the water quality of over 100 lakes in Oklahoma. The website was created in May after legislation was signed by Governor Mary Fallin in response to the outbreak of toxic blue-green algae in Oklahoma waters.” This was great news! For the heck of it, I checked Rocky Lake. You’ll love this. For the lake I had to leave because it was closed due to a fish kill and toxic algae, the site provided this information. “Rocky Lake: There have been no recent reports of blue-green algae or other concerns for recreational use of this lake.” And now I’m just bubbling over with confidence in the accuracy of information available through this source. The same message was posted for Clinton Lake, which the city says has no water in it. The same message was posted for Elk City, which has but a puddle. The same message was posted for Foss Lake, which is down 26%. Apparently having little to no water in the lake is not a concern for its recreational use. I’ll pass this observation back to Oklahoma Tourism and Channel 12 in the hope something can be done to improve this questionable resource.

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