With water levels still far below normal, a dredging operation is underway at Kanopolis State Park to improve boating access for Memorial Day weekend.
Park staff are overseeing the dredging near the ramp at Langley Point, the park's only current usable boat ramp. Their focus is on improving access to the water in the cove and then access from the cove to the main body of water.
"We want to get all the (extra) sand out so they have a clear path in and out," park ranger Levi Gantenbein said.
Workers are utilizing a crawler crane with an extendable fork lift. At the end, is a clam shell bucket that is able to grab sand and sediment from the lake floor and deposit it on the shore. From there, that sand will be hauled away.
The dredging project began Monday and is expected to be completed Friday. The last time Kanopolis State Park performed dredging like this was back in 2006, park manager Rick Martin said.
The Langley Point boat ramp is usable as is, but will be easier to use when the dredging is finished, Martin said. The ramp has been difficult for boaters to use because of the low water levels.
"It took us forever to get in because it's so low," Salina's Bob Moore said. "It took 15 minutes longer than normal because you had to be careful of the sand and rocks."
The lake is currently four feet below conservation pool, the ideal level as determined by the Corps of Engineers. Normally, the Corps keeps the lake four feet above that conservation pool level. So, in essence, the lake is about eight feet below normal, Martin said.
The problem is there is no water coming from the Smoky Hill River, Martin said.
"I always tell people, it's not like your bathtub. You can't just turn the spigot on," Martin said.
Boaters at Langley Point Thursday told KAKE News the water is low and the ramp is challenging to use, but many feel the dredging has helped.
"They've done a pretty good job of getting it through," Salina's Frank Blakely said.
Blakely said that as people hear about the success of the project, he expects more people to venture out to Kanopolis' shores.
"It'll bring a lot of people that thought they couldn't get on the lake," Blakely said.
Park staff are also optimistic. They say 70 percent of their "reservable sites" have been claimed for the weekend. All rental cabins have also been reserved, Martin said.
And the park expects to benefit from the higher gas prices because more people may visit the park to stay closer to home, Martin said.
Boaters say people can have a good time on the lake this weekend, thanks in part to the dredging project. But they say with the influx of people for the holiday weekend and with lake levels still low, they just advise boaters to take the time to launch and boat safely.
"Watch it, take it slow," Moore said.
"They'll just have to be careful," Blakely said.