Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rocky Lake - 2

I’ve been trying to paddle Rocky Lake for two years. There is no particular reason for that other than wanting to paddle all the lakes of Oklahoma. The logic was that I’d start with the most drought stricken area first in the hope that conditions and enjoyment would improve as I moved further east.

I'm standing at what would normally be the water's edge.  There's
a drop of a couple feet off the end of the ramp, and still a good
distance to the water.  The rust marks on the poles show where
the floating wharf would normally rest.
Conditions were horrible, but not a surprise. The site on lake conditions was established to provide up-to-date information on lakes from both tourism and health perspectives, the latter mostly involving the presence of blue-green algae. Getting small towns to cooperate in providing timely information on lake conditions, I knew from outset, would be impossible, and I voiced that opinion to the lady overseeing the program as I wished her luck. Sure enough, the latest information is from the 3rd of July, 2012, with no update in fourteen months. Hobart’s interest in public health is best displayed by my effort to get current conditions before making the trip. I called the city to speak with the person responsible for reservoir oversight. I was asked why I wanted to speak with him, so I explained that I was coming to canoe the lake, and was looking for current conditions, like water level and the existence of blue-green algae, which can cause significant health issues. In response I heard, “What lake? We have a lake? I didn’t know we have a lake!”

If it's green on top, STOP! 
Since my arrival at Rocky Lake a year ago, the lake has been posted as closed to fishing due to fish kills from algae. The sign was still there, but I didn’t plan on fishing, and I also didn‘t plan on coming back for another try. This was going to get done. There were two issues here: water level and algae bloom.

Winged bedlam as a large flock of pelicans take off.
The sayings is, “If it’s green on top, STOP!“ Algae exists in all waters, all the time. However, their levels remain as a normal part of the ecosystem. If the water is not normally replaced or freshened by water flow or rain, and water temperatures and nutrients, such as agricultural run-off, become abnormally high, as in late summer, the algae can go into a “bloom.” At dangerous levels, blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, will produce toxins that can cause allergic reactions like skin rashes and eye irritations, asthmatic symptoms, diarrhea, vomiting, liver and nervous system reactions. Toxicity can be particularly dangerous for small children and pets, resulting in illness or even death in extreme cases.

It's not a great picture, since it's backlighted, but the stains on the
intake pipe show how far the lake level has dropped.
The drive back to the lake was covered with debris and overgrown weeds. I could find no official site that gave water levels, but it was obvious the water was down a good ten feet. The water was as thick as a soup, and clarity reached only one-half inch. Algae was thick along both the shore and in open water. I wore 12-inch rubber boots to avoid the water as much as possible. My only exposure to the water was from sponging the mud out of Buddy before setting him back up on top the Ram. I didn’t even realize I had a hangnail on my right hand, but sure enough, by the next day it was infected. A day of Neosporin took care of it. Except for a central spine down the south end of the lake, near the dam, water was so shallow I dipped mud with nearly every stroke. At the northern end of the lake, the water was putrid and stunk badly, and most of the feeder branches was inaccessible. All I can say is that I’ve checked off Rocky Lake, and it’s history.


No comments:

Post a Comment