OLYMPIA – Although the rains have begun to fall in many parts of the state, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is warning boaters that access ramps on many lakes and streams still present a hazard because of low-water conditions.
Warning signs advising boaters to "Use Ramp at Own Risk" have gone up at more than a dozen WDFW access sites, most of them on the west side of the Cascade Mountains, said Steve Sherlock, WDFW lands access manager.
"Even though we're starting to get some rain, the water level in a lot of our lakes and streams is still very low," Sherlock said. "The situation can change from one week to the next, and we're just asking people to exercise caution – especially if they see a warning sign by the ramp."
Peter Dietrichson, regional WDFW land manager in Montesano, said he recently received a report of a man swamping his pickup truck at Island Lake in Mason County after backing off the end of the ramp in an effort to bring his boat ashore. Since then, the agency has posted a warning sign at the ramp and has installed higher "stop planks" at the end of several other ramps to give drivers a clear signal if they're about to back into trouble.
"Unfortunately, the only remedy for some of these sites is more water," Dietrichson said. "Until water levels rise, we're asking people to assess the situation carefully before attempting to launch or haul out their boat."
Ironically, the problem is more pronounced in western Washington than on the "dry side of the mountains," because water levels in eastern Washington are often controlled by irrigation systems, Sherlock said.
Boat ramps at the following WDFW access sites currently posted with warning signs include:
- Thurston County: Luer's Beach, Clear Lake, Lawrence Lake, Offutt Lake and Munn Lake.
- Mason County: Island Lake and Phillips Lake.
- Pierce County: American Lake, Whitman Lake and Ohop Lake.
- Grays Harbor County: Satsop River (Double Bridges) and the Chehalis River (Fuller Bridge).
- Lewis County: Cowlitz River (County Line Site) and Massy Bar.
- Cowlitz County: Olequah Lake.
- Asotin County: Couse Creek.
Sherlock asks that anyone who spots a potentially dangerous access site – particularly one that is unmarked – report the situation to the WDFW lands manager in that region. Those managers are:
- Mill Creek - Lyle Nelson, (425) 775-1311
- Vancouver - Ray Croswell, (360) 696-6211
- Montesano - Peter Dietrichson, (360) 753-2600
- Spokane - Brian Trickel, (509) 456-4089
- Ephrata - Matt Monda, (509) 754-4624
- Yakima - Del Peterson, (509) 575-2740