Boaters right at home at Perry Lake hot spot

Party Cove a popular place to meet and greet

Frank Tucker calls it front porch syndrome.

But instead of potted flowers, swings and patio furniture there are rafts, inner tubes and boats – lots of them.

The street address: Party Cove, Perry Lake.

For years, and even decades, boaters have found their way to Party Cove, where their watercraft are tied together and passengers jump from boat to boat, visiting friends and sometimes strangers.

On Labor Day, about 60 vessels of all kinds – houseboats, speedboats and those used for fishing and sailing – were anchored in the cove. Kids were jumping off the sides of boats as adults floated nearby with drinks in hand.

The day before was more crowded, with well over a hundred boats gathered in the spot.

On Monday, a group of about a dozen boats was tied together in the middle of the activity. The boaters all hailed from Dock C at Perry Lake’s marina. Their homes on land were throughout northeast Kansas.

Hanging out at Party Cove, just northeast of the Slough Creek bridge on the east side of Perry Lake, is a weekend staple for many in the group. Frank Tucker – looking up and down the row of boats – said their owners were like family.

“You immediately have something in common with everybody,” he said.

The boaters have celebrated birthdays, holidays and even a marriage or two while linked by rope and floating in the water.

Next door were Noel and Mary Etzel and their two children. The Topeka family are self-described die-hard boaters.

“It’s family time,” Mary Etzel said. “The kids love it. They like being around the water.”

Noel Etzel has been coming to the cove for 19 years. He has seen the cove become busier, especially on holiday weekends.

Sometimes several hundred boats can pour into the area, and the scene can get a bit rowdy. But boaters are quick to note it’s a much tamer atmosphere than Party Cove at the Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri.

Ryan Schmidt – a natural resource officer for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks – said Perry Lake’s Party Cove hasn’t been a problem.

“I know a lot of people that put a boat on the lake and go directly to Party Cove. They don’t leave ’til the end of the day. They don’t go tubing or skiing or driving around. They go to party,” he said.

His only concern is that with so many boats linked together in the same area, if a fire, gas leak or explosion were to occur it could become chaotic and even more dangerous.

A few years ago, he said, carbon monoxide from a group of boats that had formed an enclosed swimming area contributed to a drowning.

“Party Cove has pretty much stayed the same – maybe a little bit busier over the years – but it’s never gotten out of hand,” Schmidt said.

Erik Patterson, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said about 15,000 to 20,000 people were expected to visit Perry Lake this weekend.

With the price of gas, Everett Lowe, of Topeka, said many find it cheaper to motor out to the cove and spend the day anchored. It’s similar to being at the docks, he said, only with a different view and cleaner water.

Although Labor Day is the official end of summer, some at Party Cove said boating season wouldn’t be over until October or November.

“The leaves will be beautiful colors,” Mary Etzel said.