GRDA Lake Patrol Offers Safe Boating Tips


Grand Lake --- Approximately 700 people drown each year from recreational boating accidents.

The Grand River Dam Authority knows that number could be lowered by simply buckling on a life jacket and following lake rules and regulations.

The GRDA Lake Patrol will be out on Grand Lake and Lake Hudson enforcing the regulations in order to encourage a safe Memorial Day weekend for all visitors. They will also be “catching” boaters wearing their life jackets. This weekend will kick off the third season of the “I got caught wearing my life jacket” campaign, rewarding those who boat safely.

The slogan has always been “it won’t work if you don’t wear it” and it’s true. You cannot underestimate the importance of your life jacket. Those who are wearing their life jackets and making sure their children are wearing their life jackets are really setting an example of safe boating for everyone else on the water.

GRDA is also keeping the public aware of the Kyle Williams Boating Safety Education Act. This law prohibits children between the ages of 12 and up to 16 years of age, without a valid driver’s license, from operating any vessel powered by a motor of more than 10 horsepower or a sailing vessel 16 feet or longer without first completing a state approved boater safety course. GRDA has been offering boater safety courses free of charge.

Memorial Day Weekend traditionally kicks off the summer season for area lakes, drawing thousands to the water for boating, skiing, swimming or sailing. And with such a tremendous increase in lake traffic, it is essential that proper boating safety is followed.

With that in mind, the GRDA Lake Patrol offers these safe boating tips you should remember before hitting the water this weekend.  

  • Before you leave the dock, know the stability, load capability and handling of the vessel you’re operating. All boats must be equipped with certain safety equipment. Learn how to properly use all safety equipment. Check the water conditions and know where hazards like sandbars and stump beds are located.
  • Before you leave home, check the weather; don’t get caught on the lake in a storm. Take time to double check to see if all your safety equipment is on the boat. The equipment required by law: personal floatation device (PFD) life preservers, anchor, bailing device, oars, fire extinguishers, lights, horn or whistle and throwable cushions.
  • Boaters, no matter what age, need a float plan. Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.
  • Most lake accidents are alcohol related. “If you drink, don’t drive” applies to the lake. Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for persons 14-44 years of age and more than half of those drownings are alcohol related.

Other important rules to help keep you safe on the water…
  • All children (age 12 and under) must wear an approved life preserver (personal floatation device) at all times when the boat they are in is 26 feet or smaller.
  • Within 150 feet of boats, wharves, docks, shoreline landings, or swimming areas, power boats and personal watercraft must not travel faster than idle speed. All boats shall respect the “No Wake Areas” including under all bridges. Vessel operators will be held responsible for any property damage caused by their wake.
  • Operators of personal watercraft must stay at least 50 feet away from all moving vessels and must idle around docks and swimmers. Operators must wear an approved life preserver.
  • Water skiing, jet skiing and similar activities are permitted only during daylight hours. Skiing is prohibited upstream from the Strang Bridge on Lake Hudson, above Twin Bridges, in Elm Creek east of Grove water intake tower, above the Harbors View Marina on Duck Creek and above Lakemont Shores ramp on Drowning Creek on Grand Lake.
  • In addition to the boat operator, a boat towing a skier must have a person (of at least 8 years old) in a position to observe the skier, unless a rear view mirror has been installed so the boat operator can observe the skier.
  • Wake jumping is prohibited in any cove, creek or hollow
  • All boats must carry an approved personal flotation device for each person on board.
  • No boat shall operate above its licensed capacity.
  • Each boat shall be equipped with a paddle or set of oars, an anchor, a bailing device, horn or whistle and a flame arrestor if applicable.
  • Boats over 16 feet in length must have a throwable cushion. Sirens are not permitted. All boats must have proper navigation lights and fire extinguishers. For details, check with a lake patrolman or in the applicable laws.
  • No one shall sit or ride on the sides of a boat (unless it has 24-inch high rails) while it is moving faster than idle or trolling speed. Operators may stand, if the vessel was designed to be driven from a standing position.
  • During nighttime hours, boat speeds must not exceed 35 miles per hour. Lights must be illuminated at all times.
  • Boats must not be operated within 200 feet of any GRDA dam and, during generation, no closer than 500 feet. No boat may be operated in a reckless, unsafe manner. No boat may be operated by a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • All boats shall be muffled according to state law. Marine toilets must have a total retention system.
  • With the exception of the GRDA Lake Patrol, boats powered by internal combustion engines are not permitted on W.R. Holway Reservoir.
  • Inspection stickers may be cancelled and boats removed from the waters of GRDA lakes for any violation of these rules.

NOTE: This is only a brief synopsis of GRDA lake rules. More lake safety information is available in the GRDA Summer Lake Guide, or visit, or contact the GRDA Lake Patrol at (918) 782-9594.

If other individuals would like to receive occasional electronic information regarding GRDA and Grand Lake, they can send an e-mail to