Flood damage limited the facilities available at Perry Lake during the Labor Day weekend, and the number of visitors was predictably down from last year. Attendance at Clinton Lake, however, was up, and officials at both lakes reported no recreation-oriented accidents or injuries.
Dennis Archer, park manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Perry, said about 30,000 people spent time at the lake this weekend, including an estimated 1,500 motorcyclists who attended the ABATE convention. Last year's Labor Day weekend attracted a crowd of more than 55,000.
Lake officials had expected a low turnout for a number of reasons.
"Rumors are circulating that the lake is closed for the rest of the season," Archer said, stressing that Slough Creek Park will be open until Oct. 15 and Longview Park will remain open at least until Sept. 30. The swimming beach is open, but floodwaters caved in part of a wall at the changing house.
Also, a health advisory issued by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment warned of increased bacteria levels at Perry Lake as a result of flooding. The advisory was lifted last week, but the word apparently hasn't reached everyone because the corps office still receives calls from people wondering if the water is safe.
"The advisory was lifted the Tuesday before the holiday and a lot of people had probably already made plans for the holiday weekend," Archer said.
About half of the campsites at Perry Lake parks were open, and rangers are busy cleaning up and repairing facilities at the other parks.
"We hope by next spring to fix up some of these facilities that were destroyed or washed away," he said.
At Clinton Lake, outdoors enthusiasts frustrated by a summer of heavy rains wasted little time flocking to the campsites.
"They had been held back for too many weekends," said Vic Counts, project manager.
He said campers arrived at the lake early for the three-day weekend. Cedar Ridge Park filled up Thursday and the other camp sites were occupied by Friday or Saturday. A new method for calculating visitation doesn't give a head count of people who went to Clinton over the weekend, but Counts said the figure was 12 1/2 percent higher than Labor Day weekend last year.
"It's higher than the Fourth of July, but not as high as Memorial Day," he said. "That was our big weekend."
Activity slowed by Monday, when the wind picked up, temperatures dropped and dark clouds loomed overhead, but Clinton Lake officials were pleased with the turnout.
"We were glad to get the lake back down and everything open," said Counts.