Renting Boats on a Shrinking Lake: How to Handle Drought-Related Boating Issues

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While many areas may be experiencing record rainfall, other parts of the country are experiencing severe drought, and lakes typically used for boating and recreation are falling in level. Some of these lakes still have portions deep enough for boating, so if you were hoping to get to one of these locations and head out onto the water before the end of the year, you can still do so. However, when you rent a boat at one of these locations, you need to chat with the boating rental workers there to ensure you know how to be safe on the shrinking lake.

Ask About Restrictions in Addition to Lake Management Warnings

Many lakes in drought-stricken areas are part of a national park or monument, and the entity that manages the lake likely has restrictions on where people can go, as well as warnings about shallow areas and debris obstacles. Ask the boating rental company workers if the company has additional restrictions, such as not venturing past a certain point because the water is on the verge of becoming too shallow to safely move a boat out there. If the company has restrictions on where you can take the boat, please follow them even if the restricted areas look fine. If you see people boating in those areas, do not assume the company was being too cautious; it could be those people are not supposed to be in that area, either.

Look for Floating Docks

If you've yet to decide on a boat company to rent from, look for one near floating docks and not permanent docks. As water levels recede, and permanent docks can't move out with the water, you risk damaging the bottom of the boat if you keep trying to bring it to a permanent dock. Good boating companies know this and will try to have floating docks that they can keep in water that is a safe enough depth for boats.

Learn About the Company's Damage Policy

Speaking of damage, learn the boat rental company's policy regarding damage to the underside and sides of the boat. If there are unknown obstacles in the water that scrape the bottom of the boat, are you liable for damages? Is the boating company liable, assuming you did not take the boat into restricted portions of the lake?

You'll still be able to go boating on many lakes. Just be careful and obey the rules. This is an unprecedented amount of drought, and the more cautious you are, the better off you'll be.