Memorial Day fun at Lake Mead comes with a warning - 8 News NOW

Memorial Day fun at Lake Mead comes with a warning

Memorial Day fun at Lake Mead comes with a warning

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LAS VEGAS -- Big crowds are expected at Lake Mead this Memorial Day weekend. Summer hasn't even officially started but it's already been a deadly year at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

There have been four deaths. Officials just pulled the body of a drowning victim from the water Thursday.

Thousands of people will spend time at the national park this holiday making it the busiest weekend of the year. Hundreds were already launching their boats Friday to get the weekend started.

The dozens of officers patrolling the lake are geared up for a busy weekend and hope boaters will follow the rules to stay safe.

"It can be a recipe for problems, if people aren't careful," said Mike Maynard, Southern Nevada Department of Wildlife.

Before packing up the family and heading to Lake Mead, there are some things boaters should know.

"Make sure you have a map, if you've never been out here," said Dakota Potter, a Californian who is vacationing at the Lake Mead.

The lake also has record low water levels which change the landscape.

"New hazards are appearing all the time that don't appear on navigational maps. There are parts of the lake that haven't been exposed for literally decades," Maynard said.

"Rocks that were underwater or might not have been exposed last week might be close to the surface this week," said Nick Duhe, a boating education coordinator.

Officers also want to remind boaters, drinking and boating don't mix, unless you want a DUI. Boats must also be fitted with the proper safety gear. Everyone must wear life jackets.

"Their ability to swim in a pool is much different than their ability to swim against a mild breeze," Maynard added.

Boaters do not need licenses but Nevada residents born after 1982 need to complete a boating education course to operate most motorboats on interstate waters like Lake Mead. The course offers navigational tips and how to handle different types of boats.

Boater Geoff Melcher has some advice.

"Don't go near the shore, make sure you wear polarized sunglasses cause being able to see in the water is crucial. If this is your first time, don't come back at dusk. Make sure you know where you are going ahead of time. Get out early and that way you can enjoy yourself," he said.

The National Park Service announced the following launch ramps are open with some limitations:
  • Hemenway Harbor - Limited deep water launching
  • Boulder Harbor - Excellent launching, narrow channel
  • Callville Bay Main Ramp - Smaller boats recommended
  • Callville Bay Low-water Ramp - Excellent launching
  • Echo Bay Low-water Ramp - Excellent launching
  • Temple Bar - Flat, no deep water launching
  • South Cove - Cleaned and operational

The following launch ramps are closed:

  • Echo Bay Main Ramp (closed May 16, 2014)
  • Las Vegas Bay (closed 2001)
  • Government Wash (closed 2003)
  • Overton (closed 2010)

For up-to-the-minute updates on lake conditions, go to nps.gov/lake/parknews/lakeconditions.htm.

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