, COLLBRAN, Colo.--It has been a long winter, but the last pieces of ice are finally small enough for the lake to be open for boating. Boaters and fishing enthusiasts are gearing up to land rainbow and cutthroat trout. Park rangers encourage all boaters to kick off the season safely on this popular lake located at the edge of Grand Mesa.
The Early Settlers campground and Oak Point campground are also open and both have potable water. Aspen Grove is open for dry camping only as water is not yet available, and the dump station is closed for repairs. The Early Settlers camper services building and dump station are anticipated to open between May 12 - 16.
Park Manager Bob Miller said "Although boating is starting a month later this year than last, the lake is finally ice-free and open for boating. This is a great time of year to enjoy some early season recreational fun at Vega State Park. However, please remember to wear your life jackets, and make sure your kids wear one too."
Colorado law states that only those 16 years old or older may operate a motorboat. Teenagers 14 and 15 years old may legally operate a motorboat if they've completed a boating safety course. In addition, all boaters must have a life jacket for every person on board. Children under the age of 13 years must wear a life jacket whenever on a boat, unless the child is inside of an enclosed cabin.
"All too often we see lifejackets that are damaged, inaccessible or are the wrong size," Miller said. "A life jacket sized incorrectly may actually slip off a small child or turn a victim face down in the water rather than face up. If the seams are torn, material frayed or damaged, throw the life jacket away. Often times, repairs made by well-intentioned people cause the life jacket to function improperly."
Many boaters needlessly lose their lives because they were unable to fasten their life jacket after capsizing. Hypothermia sets in quickly in these cold Colorado waters, depriving victims of the fine motor skills needed to tie or connect straps. In nine out of ten boating related fatalities, life jackets were not worn.
All boats, including canoes, kayaks and jet-skis must also have a horn or whistle on board to notify others of any problems. In addition, boaters should check their fire-extinguishers and trailer to ensure everything is in proper working condition. Lack of proper safety equipment on a boat could cost the operator $50 or more in fines. Worse yet, it cost someone their life.
"Make sure the boat's drain-plug is in too," Miller said, "and boaters should carry a first-aid kit and extra warm clothes on board in case the weather turns bad. By following some simple safety guidelines, you and your family will enjoy an excellent day on the lake."
Park visitors must register their boat with Colorado State Parks prior to launching. Boat registrations can be purchased at the Vega State Park Visitor Center/Gift Shop or at other state park locations. The park office is usually open 8 AM until 4 PM, seven days a week, but call ahead to check for staff availability.
To register for a boating safety class, call 1-888-593-BOAT, or visit www.parks.state.co.us for more information about boating safety.
With the recent discovery of zebra mussels at Lake Pueblo, Colorado State Parks are asking boaters and anglers help to protect Colorado waters from all aquatic invasive species (AIS). Zebra mussels are a non-native, invasive species that spread very quickly, causing harmful effects to the environment. All boaters are advised to take a few simple, precautionary steps -- every time they go to a lake, river or stream.
Before leaving a lake or other waterway, boaters should:
--DRAIN the water from the boat, live well and the lower unit of the engine
--INSPECT all exposed surfaces.
--REMOVE all plant and animal material.
--CLEAN the hull of your boat.
--DRY the boat, fishing gear, and equipment.
To get to Vega State Park from I-70 take exit 49, travel south on Highway 65, then east on Highway 330 through Collbran. Travel about 12 miles from Collbran to the park entrance station. For more information, contact Vega State Park at (970) 487-3407.