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  • Last modified 25 days ago (May 30, 2018)

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Lakes' campgrounds are popular destinations

Long known as a weekend paradise for recreational campers, the county’s two lakes were packed to capacity for Memorial Day weekend.

A sign on a Cottonwood Point campground gatehouse Sunday declared what a quick spin around the expanded facility revealed: Every slot was filled, mostly with recreational vehicles and fifth wheels, with a few tents scattered about.

The story was the same at Hillsboro Cove, while a couple of spots off the shoreline at French Creek Cove remained vacant. At Durham Cove, where small tent cities are common on holidays, there was just one Monday morning.

More unusual were the throngs of swimmers and sunbathers at the reservoir’s beaches.

“That’s been a very rare thing,” said Torrey Hett, Corps of Engineers office manager, alluding to the damper blue-green algae has put on water activities in recent years. “I just talked with our park rangers, and we were full, and everything was peaceful out here.”

It was the first Memorial Day weekend for new Marion County Park and Lake superintendent Isaac Hett, and he agreed that clear conditions and good weather contributed to a packed house.

“It was a lot busier than I originally expected,” he said. “The lake is still clear, there’s no blue-green algae, which probably had something to do with it. The weather last year, I think, was a little colder, and there was some rain.”

All recreational vehicle sites with hookups behind the lake hall and on the point across from the swimming beach were full, Hett said, and between 20 and 30 tent sites were scattered around the lake.

Low lake levels didn’t pose a problem for swimmers, but boaters had to exercise a bit more precision launching their boats, as a main launch ramp near the office was narrowed to half width.

“The south half of this ramp here is problematic,” Hett said. “They added the south half later, and it actually ends before the north half. You can’t really tell looking at it, but with the lower water levels, about four or five feet into the water the ramp ends.”

Use and currents have eroded the lake bed beyond that section of the ramp, Hett said.

“The other day we actually had a trailer get stuck in it,” he said. “We were able to get in there and lift it back out. I was walking down the ramp, and the water literally went from my knee height to taking one step off and I was at my neck.”

Now that the first busy summer weekend is past, Hett plans to have the hole filled with rock and gravel.

Fishing was good over the weekend, too, Hett said, although some of the strategies employed were unfamiliar.

“I had a 19½-pound channel cat caught on cat food,” he said. “I’ve never heard of that one. And wiper fishing on chicken livers. I’ve had multiple people come in and tell me they’ve done good.”

Hett expects capacity crowds again for Bluegrass at the Lake, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day. He hopes those will take less of a toll on him as superintendent. “I know that waking this morning up was a little hard,” he said.

Last modified May 30, 2018

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