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Lake & Rivers Local News USACE

USACE, TPWD Lay Down the Rules for a Safe Labor Day Weekend at Canyon Lake

Image courtesy of Mark Robinson, Holiday Lodge on Canyon Lake (by Boat Ramp #1).

Heading to Canyon Lake to enjoy the Labor Day weekend?

It’s beautiful here — but the lake and rivers can be very dangerous for recreationalists.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), which owns Canyon Lake, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), which patrols Canyon Lake, urge recreationalists to follow the rules and say safe.

“Another busy holiday weekend is right around the corner,” said USACE Lake Manager Javier Perez Ortiz. “If you’re going to be in, on, or near the water, please wear a life jacket. Watch children constantly, and in the water keep them within arm’s reach. Anyone boating should also take an online boater safety course, boat sober, and check the weather continuously.”

Visitors should avoid swimming at the hugely popular Overlook Park, adds USACE spokesman Trevor Welsh. It is not a designated swimming area due to hidden hazards like elevation drops and rip currents.

Both locals and tourists enjoy walking across the top of Canyon Dam, which features spectacular vistas. But Overlook Park was designed as a place for visitors to appreciate the view — not spend the day — due to limited parking.

“We would like to remind people that overcrowding is an ongoing issue, especially at Overlook Park,” Welsh said. “This park is not a swimming area, it is a viewing point. Parking is allowed only at designated spots. Overcrowding prevents emergency personnel from responding if needed. The rangers may have to close the park if this issue becomes unmanageable.”

USACE suggests visitors who want to swim visit other Canyon Lake parks.

Water Oriented Recreation District of Comal County (WORD) leases and operates the 116-acre Comal Park, which features a 1,500-foot swim beach and the 485-acre Canyon Park, which has a pea-gravel beach.

USACE operates Potters Creek Campground Beach, designated for campers only. Joint Base San Antonio’s (JBSA) lakefront parks are restricted to military users.

Comal County constables and Comal County Sheriff’s Office deputies will monitor and enforce the laws at boat ramps and on county roadways, but TPWD is the law out on Canyon Lake.

In 2020, COVID-restricted Texans hit the open water in droves, driving recreational boating accidents statewide to a 30-year high.

Outreach efforts by TPWD game wardens and community partners resulted in a 24-percent decrease in boating-related accidents, but numbers remain higher than pre-pandemic levels TPWD said.

“We are expecting another boost in Texans enjoying the outdoors during the Labor Day weekend so Texas game wardens will be out in force to ensure that everyone exercises proper safety protocols on the water,” said Cody Jones, TPWD assistant commander for Marine Enforcement. “We want to ensure water-related activities are handled in a responsible manner. While you are on a boat, wear a life jacket, closely supervise any children with you, use the engine kill switch, and abstain from driving a boat if you are drinking alcohol.”

Canyon Lake boaters can expect to see TPWD game wardens checking that everyone under the age of 13 is wearing a life vest, that boats are equipped with proper flotation devices, and that no one operating a boat is under the influence of alcohol.

“We want to ensure Texans have a great holiday and the only way to do that is by following state laws,” Jones said.

According to a report released by the U.S. Coast Guard in 2019, operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and alcohol use ranked as the top-five primary contributing factors in boating accidents.

County laws are in effect at all Canyon Lake boat ramps, which on holiday weekends are routinely clogged with traffic, trash and people who disregard rules about swimming, partying and parking.

By law, county boat ramps can only be used to launch or recover boats. No fishing, partying, swimming or loitering is allowed.

Other offenses include parking, picnicking, obstructing and ignoring requests or orders from law enforcement.

Comal County is in the process of updating guidelines for boat ramps, but as a general rule parking is tight and it is illegal to park at a boat ramp if you are planning to board someone else’s boat. Kayakers who are launching watercraft needn’t worry about being towed just because their cars aren’t pulling boat trailers.

Swimming rules are statutorily enacted by the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority, which prohibits swimming within 200 feet on either side of the center line of a boat ramp.

To review rules for tubing on the Guadalupe River, click here. To see rules for the Comal River, click here.

For a good overview of all the do’s and don’ts in the Canyon Lake area, watch this WORD video.

Have fun on the lake and rivers, but stay safe.


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