By JOE SOBRIO
The National Park Service announced the closure of the Echo Bay boat launch earlier this month via a brief press release. The statement said the launch would be closed indefinitely, due to low water levels at Lake Mead.
No mention was made of any future solutions being considered to provide boat access to the north end of the lake. Calls to Lake Mead headquarters for more information went unanswered.
According to the press release, the launch pad was originally designed to service a minimum water level of 1060 feet above sea level. The current water level has dropped to around 1050 feet, thus causing closure.
The NPS’s four-paragraph statement reads, “Boaters will still be able to access Lake Mead from Hemenway Harbor as well as access points on Lake Mohave.”
Thus, local residents will now have a 90-minute drive to launch their boats.
Closure of the ramp may cause hardship to local boaters. Overton resident Jason Ham, who has been a boater on the lake for a few years and has become accustomed to taking his friends and family there fishing every month, discussed the impact of the closure.
“It will mean a lot less time on the lake,” he said. “If I can make two trips a year, I will be happy. A trip to the lake will now be an entire weekend affair.
Another local resident, Chris Kohntopp has regularly used the Echo Bay ramp. “The lake is a place for really fun memories,” Kohntopp said.
He recently bought a boat and has become very comfortable being out on the lake regularly and spending days there with his family. Kohntopp does not know if these adventures can continue.
“I don’t know where we’ll go boating anymore,” Kohntopp said. “If I have to drag the boat through Las Vegas to get to the lake, maybe southern Utah will start to look more appealing.”
Kohntopp admitted he was unfamiliar with the Utah boating landscape, but said he was studying it. He also mentioned the possibility of selling only his boat.
“I don’t know if the lake will recover,” he said.
As families plan their summers, ramp closure is a huge issue. Many local families, including Ham and Kohntopp, have overlooked the lake as a viable and realistic destination as they compare a trip to Boulder City to a trip to southern Utah.
What is certain is that the happy memories of the north end of Lake Mead will have to be put on hold for the time being.