The Army Corps of Engineers’ Tulsa District, which includes all of Oklahoma, plus parts of Texas and Kansas, is seeing high attendance at all 38 of the lakes and projects it manages, according to Colonel Scott Preston.
He said the district averages 14 drownings a year, yet already 15 people have drowned in 2020, and none had on life jackets.
"I don't think we're seeing a trend,” said Col. Preston. “I think what it is is people were anxious to get back out and with that, personal responsibility and just making sure they're taking care of themselves or family, some of that is not happening.”
Col. Preston said with big crowds expected over the holiday weekend, park rangers will be out doing safety checks, especially focusing on people who are getting into the water while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and those without a life jacket.
News On 6 went to Oologah Lake Thursday to check out the scene. Parents Jeremy and Jessica Cloud said their Broken Arrow family hasn't been on a trip since the pandemic began, so Oologah Lake is a nice getaway.
"Just trying to get the kids out of the house,” said Jeremy Cloud. “They've been going stir crazy."
They brought their three daughters, including two-year-old Piper, who loved her first lake experience.
Park rangers like Matt Nolen will be busy over the Fourth of July weekend.
"We check for overloaded boats,” said Nolen. “We check for the presence of life jackets as required by state law, check for fire extinguishers, flotation throwables."
Nolen said each lake can have hundreds, even up to thousands of people at once. That's why the Corps of Engineers is reminding that everyone must play their part in ensuring safety: Watching for those under the influence of drugs or alcohol, staying hydrated and monitoring the weather.
"We usually get a lot of wind action out there in the body of the lake,” said Nolen.
As far as COVID-19 concerns, the Corps of Engineers recommends following CDC guidelines.
Col. Presont said staff are not taking cash payments, all campground reservations are online and the day-use areas are all free right now