With Ray Roberts Lake’s floodwaters dropping steadily, Texas Parks and Wildlife has reopened several of the lake’s boat ramps and started what most likely will be a lengthy cleanup.
TPWD opened the Jordan ramp west of Pilot Point to the public on Friday, Aug. 7. The Sanger, Jordan and Pond Creek boat ramps also were reopened.
The boat ramps and the lake’s two major state park units were closed after torrential rains in May left Ray Roberts about 12 feet above conservation level. The lake level has been dropping steadily with the arrival of hot, dry weather.
“With the lakes going down enough to where we are able to open up some of the facilities, we included the Jordan ramp, the Pond ramp and the Sanger ramp,” said Mark Stewart, superintendent of the state park’s Isle du Bois Unit. “All three of those opened [Aug. 7], and hopefully as the lake continues to come down and we
continue our cleanup efforts, more facilities will be open in the future soon.”
The opening came after a workday on July 26 at the Sanger and Pond boat ramps. Volunteers cleared debris and silt from the ramps.
“The folks that came out did a really good job for us,” Stewart said. “We are really excited about the involvement that the public wanted to have on that. We do still hope to have some additional cleanup days in the future, but don’t have any specifically scheduled yet.”
As of Wednesday morning, the lake had dropped to 4 feet above its normal level. The U.S. Corps of Engineers continues to release water at about 25 percent of the dam’s full release capacity.
Both the Johnson Branch and Isle du Bois units are still inundated with significant amounts of water. The need for repair is becoming more and more apparent as the water recedes.
“We are currently in the cleanup phase from our lovely flood,” said Greg Waller, superintendent of the Johnson Branch Unit. “We are hoping to open our boat ramp [Aug 14]. That’s not a hard date by any means; it all depends on where the water level is. We are hoping to get that done, but things can change.”
“We are still a lot like Isle du Bois as far as getting our campsites up and running.”
Campsites that have been under water are beginning to emerge from the water. Stewart said an electrician must inspect all of the electrical outlets before the public can use the campsites.
Both Stewart and Waller said the picnic tables and infrastructure in the campgrounds are crusted with Zebra mussels and need to be cleaned.
“There’s a lot of the picnic tables and barbeque grills that were under water, encrusted by zebra mussels,” Stewart said. “A lot of the concrete, electrical pedestals even, have zebra mussels on them. We are having to go around and clean all those off.”
Some of the campgrounds at Isle du Bois are accessible. Deer Ridge’s road recently emerged from the water. Quail Run is still inaccessible, however.
Waller said the employees have been doing their best to clean up the campgrounds as the water has receded, but there’s still work to do.
“We’ve been sweeping our parking lots as they come out of the water, just getting rid of all the driftwood and debris that has been left behind as the water recedes,” Waller said. “We’ve been cleaning campsites, our electric campsites, as they’ve been coming out of the water. We’ve been spraying off zebra mussels and all the muck and filth and dirt that they leave behind.”
At the rate the water is being released from the dam, the lake levels should be back to normal by September. Waller said Tropical Storm Bill set the process back a few weeks. He urged the public to have patience.
“It’s hard for people to understand what the flood really does, you know, just inside the park,” Waller said. “A lot of people have an expectation that when the water recedes it’s ready to go, not the mess that it leaves behind.
“We want to be open as bad as they do. We are in the business of parks. We are not in the business of closed parks.”
Neither superintendent had a specific date in mind as far as when the parks would be opened, but Waller said the Johnson Branch Unit could be open in a matter of weeks.