ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Memorial Day weekend is considered the start of the boating season in East Texas and this year game wardens are urging caution due to unseen dangers in the water.
Between last year's record rainfalls and the most recent flooding rains, lakes in the Pineywoods are at high levels. Game wardens James barge and Phillip Wood have spent their weekend patrolling Lake Sam Rayburn. Barge is concerned that the rains the region saw on Thursday and Friday can cause dangers to boaters who are not familiar with the area.
"With the rains we are going to have a lot of debris coming into the lake from the different rivers that feed into it," Barge said. "There are going to be a lot of stumps submerged just under the surface that you are not going to be able to see. We are also going to have some fallen trees in the lake and that will cause a long term concern. If you hit them you can mess up your motor or even put a whole in your boat."
On May 12, the Army Corps of Engineers announced they were closing Hanks Creek Park, Monterey Boat Ramp, Marion Ferry Boat Ramp, and several campsite closures in Mill Creek Park and San Augustine Park. This was due to increased elevations. The closures left very few options for boaters. May now use Cassels-Boykin in Zavalla. The corps stated they hoped to have the ramps open soon after memorial day. Barge said that could be delayed.
"They are wanting to get the area cleaned and ready to open up but this rain could delay that process. Now people are being concentrated into a smaller area so we are going to have more people in the open areas."
Barge said with boats being closer now, the game wardens are looking really close for BWI violators.
"Boating while intoxicated is a real concern for us," Barge said. "We want to stress to people that we are going to enforce the law."
In a short patrol Sunday afternoon, Barge and his crew handed out several warnings and a few citations.
"We had instances this weekend where we had people riding on the bow of the boat on a pedistool seat. If that boat strikes something then it could throw them off and run over the top of them and cause serious injury or death."
Barge is hoping their patrols can keep injuries at a minimum and eliminate the chance of death.
For daily updates of area lakes, click here.