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TPWD News Release — June 7, 2011

Low lakes increasing risk of deadly boat crashes

The worsening Texas drought is not only taking a toll on yards, crops and wildlife – it can be deadly for boaters.

Lack of rain and abnormally high, dry winds have led to significant water level drops in many Texas lakes and waterways. And shallow water can mean trouble for recreational boaters.

During the last protracted dry spell, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department records show that Texas saw a high incidence of boating-related accidents. Most of those accidents were due to boaters grounding or hitting submerged objects because of very low lake levels across the state.

“Looking at the three-year time frame (2007, 2008 and 2009) we responded to 148 boating accidents that were caused by grounding, hitting submerged objects, or hitting fixed objects,” said Jeff Parrish, TPWD’s Assistant Chief for Marine Law Enforcement. “Of these 148 accidents, 15 resulted in death and 123 caused injuries requiring treatment beyond first aid.”  

Parrish said the most common factor resulting in injury or death was the operator or passengers being ejected from the vessel upon impact.

The best precaution to take is also the most simple: pay attention to where you’re going and beware that with low water, dangerous rocks, tree stumps or other normally submerged objects could be right below the surface.

“As we are rapidly entering another year of low lake levels, it is critically important for boaters to be aware of their surroundings,” Parrish said.  “Some river authorities will provide buoys marking underwater hazards and dangerous obstacles, but this is not always the case.  Low lake levels provide many inherent dangers and boaters need to be respectful of these.”

Other activities such as pulling tubers and water skiers should also be undertaken with the utmost care on lakes with low lake levels, he said.“With so many of our lakes way lower than normal,” Parrish continued, “this summer it’s even more critical to have personal flotation devices for everyone on your boat and to make sure all children under the age of 13 are wearing one. And don’t risk going to jail by operating a boat if you’ve been drinking.”

For more boating safety tips see