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Boaters beware: Buoys mark dangers, game wardens on patrol

Safety on the Highland Lakes

Buoys help boaters to identify restricted zones, dangers, and navigable channels on Lake LBJ. Staff photo by Jared Fields

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens are prepared for an increase in boat traffic this July 4 holiday weekend as they take part in Operation Dry Water.

The operation is a national boating while intoxicated awareness and enforcement campaign that takes place July 5-7.

These law enforcement efforts are one of a number of things to consider before boating or swimming over the Fourth of July holiday.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offers water safety resources online with detailed information on wearing a life jacket, learning to swim, using a boat’s ignition safety switch, boater education courses, and supervising children while in the water.

Along with the Texas Water Safety Act, the Lower Colorado River Authority adopted additional boating rules for those who operate a boat or personal watercraft on the Highland Lakes.

Those rules include:

  • maximum watercraft noise level of 92 decibels;
  • watercraft equipped with an optional exhaust noise-suppression device must engage it when in “No Wake” areas;
  • watercraft may not be operated within 50 feet of the shoreline, structures, or swimmers except at headway speed;
  • and a nighttime speed is 20 mph or the minimum planing speed.

Buoys and markers on the lakes provide important information about dangerous areas and restricted zones.

The LCRA’s water safety page lists the types of buoys and markers found in the Highland Lakes. Buoys with a circle are a controlled area with no fishing or anchoring. In those zones, boaters should slow down to not create a wake.

A crossed diamond means boaters should keep out of the area. Additional information may be written outside of the symbol.

A diamond shape represents a danger to boaters, such as stumps, rocks, hazards, or shallow areas.

Channel and mile markers are green and red. Green markers face upstream and are on the left of the channel. Red markers face upstream and are on the right of the channel. It is illegal to attach a watercraft to a buoy or marker.

Children younger than 13 years old are required to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) or life jacket. All watercraft must have one PFD on board for each person.

Many people will bring their pets aboard while enjoying the lake. The American Kennel Club has rules to follow for your pet for safe boating.