The Utah Division of Parks and Recreation has some advice for boaters who fear their favorite waterways will dry up this summer: Boat now.
"Enjoy the lakes and reservoirs this spring and early summer when the water levels are optimum," suggested Ted Woolley, state boating coordinator for the DPR.
According to park officials, there was a decline in visitation last year, particularly at state parks with lakes and reservoirs.
Despite open boat ramps and safe water levels during most of last season, boaters, anxious about drought concerns, stayed away.
"State water managers are doing an excellent job of educating Utahns about the drought and conservation needs, which we fully support," said Woolley. "However, we believe drought concerns are keeping boaters away unnecessarily.
"Twenty-one state park boat launch ramps were open through Labor Day last year," Woolley said. "Boaters should check with us throughout the season for current boat launch conditions, which we plan to update weekly."
Current ramps now open include: Bear Lake State Park Marina (west side), Deer Creek State Park (main ramp), East Canyon State Park, Flaming Gorge (all Utah ramps), Great Salt Lake State Park Marina, Huntington State Park (north marina), Hyrum Lake State Park, Jordanelle (south PWC ramp), Lake Powell (Wahweap, Bullfrog, Halls Crossing), Millsite State Park (small boats only), Otter Creek State Park, Piute State Park, Quail Creek State Park, Utah Lake State Park, Willard Bay State Park and Yuba State Park.
Although Lake Powell remains open for boating, personal watercraft are temporarily prohibited. A lawsuit filed last week by several small businesses and private users seeks to have the ban lifted.
As it stands now, the draft proposal on personal watercraft is expected to be released in April. Reviews will mean that a final decision won't be given until August or September, at which time personal watercraft are expected to be returned to the lake.
State parks offer more to do than boating. The DPR plans a big push this summer to reintroduce the public to museums and a wide array of activities being offered at the parks. Such activities include art exhibits, hands-on craft seminars, golf, guided hikes and historic re-enactments.
One popular activity at those parks is fishing. As water temperatures rise, so does the number of fish being caught. The latest report, for example, shows fishing at Hyrum Reservoir has been good for rainbow trout but slow for bass.
Deer Creek has had fair to good fishing for walleye and trout, but the fishing for walleye at Utah Lake has been slow.
Anglers are still catching a few perch at Jordanelle; at Flaming Gorge, rainbow fishing has been excellent.
Fishermen are being asked to wait until the ice is off Huntington before casting lines because of the dangerous conditions. The water level at Quail Creek is low, but there have been reports of good fishing from the banks in recent weeks.
For more information on water levels at the various parks, call 801-538-7220 or go to www.stateparks.utah.gov.