Monday, July 13, 2009

Canoes and Lake Maumelle Don't Mix

Lake Maumelle is one of Central Arkansas most significant drinking water resources and there is no doubt that its excellent quality needs to be preserved. That said, larger drinking water impoundments nearly always serve a double duty with regards to recreation and in many ways lake Maumelle is no different--with some very curious exceptions.

Allow me to quote the big one directly from the rulebook: Rule 8. "Swimming, bathing, wading, and the use of aquaplanes, surfboards, motorized surfboards, wind-powered surfboards, personal water craft, water skis, rafts, kayaks, or other similar devices or vehicles that the Rules and Regulations do not expressly permit are prohibited."

The idea would seem to be that getting nasty humans and their associated toys in the water is a bad thing. Fair enough in theory, I suppose, but the truth of what's allowable is almost stranger than any fiction I could concoct. And rememer, it's prohibited unless expressly permitted.

So what is permitted? Big, gas-powered boats are allowed as long as they are more than 14 foot in length. Sailboats are also acceptable. But canoes and kayaks aren't welcome unless they are operated at the extreme western end of the lake. They cannot legally venture into the lake proper. In fact, they even have nice bridge to server as boundary. "Lake patrons shall restrict canoeing to the Lake Area west of the Arkansas Highway 10 Bridge." The problems is that there is not much lake here folks... this is where the river comes in, so for all intents and purposes canoeing and kayaking are prohibited on the lake.

Maybe I'm slow, or maybe I'm just missing some key point, but this just doesn't make any sense. And apart from the drafters of this plan having a personal bias or vendetta against human powered watercraft, it is a difficult position to understand. On the one hand I get how allowing swimming opens up a whole can of worms that becomes rather difficult to contain. First their are simple rafts and inner tubes, then simply powered navigation with things like windsurfing, kayaking and canoeing, and from there it just escalates with personal watercraft taking on motors with things like jet ski's and skidoo's.

I also get how you can't very well open up a lake for fishing without allowing boats with motors. What I have hard time with is how they drew the line and so neatly excised canoes and kayaks from legally using the lake. To me it would make much more sense to require the containment of the human body to the inside of any watercraft, and have this be the deciding factor when drawing the line. This could allow for small craft like canoes and kayaks, and yet prohibit things like inner tubes and swim rafts, whose use requires direct contact with the water.

Today's image shows a kayker on the lower portion of the Maumelle river, the section below the dam, where its perfectly legal for canoes and kayaks to tread.