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Southwinds Marina, wing safety share Lake Amistad safety tips

Senior Airman Brandon Taylor, 47th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, and Staff Sgt. Kevin Vaughn, 434th Flying Training Squadron aviation resource management NCO in charge, enjoy an evening of kayaking on Lake Amistad, near Del Rio, Texas. Alex Aguilar, 47th Flying Training Wing occupational safety specialist warns, for Laughlin’s boaters, that without a depth finder or knowledge of the area, damage could occur on the boats from either objects in the water sticking up or phantom islands that appear when the water is low. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Valmoja)

Lake Amistad, a reservoir filled in the late 1960’s, contains a lake floor of rocks, old boats, and remnants of a former town along with an old highway — all of which is, while both historic and interesting to some in its own right, and is also potentially dangerous as well. (courtesy photo by Airman 1st Class Dean Camarena)

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

For many stationed here at Laughlin, Lake Amistad is known as Del, Rio’s hidden gem, and is an easy choice for all sorts of outdoor activities like boating, kayaking and swimming.

However, for as much fun and relaxation many of those activities can be, being safe and knowing the surroundings while on the lake will help ensure a day of relaxation doesn’t end prematurely, or with a visit to the clinic.

Adina Elliott, 47th Force Support Squadron lead recreation aide at Laughlin’s Southwinds Marina, says injuries commonly happen to swimmers and lake-goers at the shore. Along with recommendations like  wearing sunscreen and swimming with a friend help ensure you’re safe in case of cramping or fatigue, she also recommends wearing flip-flops or shoes when on the shore.

“From the shore, one of the only things to keep in mind specific to the lake is to wear shoes,” Elliott said. “Because Lake Amistad is a rock-bottom lake, it may hurt your feet when you get into the water.”

Lake Amistad, a reservoir filled in the late 1960’s, contains a lake floor of rocks, old boats, and remnants of a former town along with an old highway — all of which is, while both historic and interesting to some in its own right and can be  dangerous as well.

“A lot of people like to go to the unknown areas to explore,” said Alex Aguilar, 47th Flying Training Wing occupational safety specialist. “I would stick to the places that are populated and designated, because people get lost in the unknown areas. There’s a lot of animals, insects, and snakes where they could kill you. You could even cross the border into Mexico, which is also an issue.”

To help swimmers and boaters coexist as well, Elliott, Aguilar, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife service recommend swimmers swim only in designated areas both for their safety, as the area is scouted in advance for suitability to swim in, but also to help boaters enter and exit the water quickly and are not harmed in the process.

“Usually, swimming areas are cleaner and surveyed in advance,” Elliott said. “You’re also less likely to have fishing lines and lures in the water in those areas, because fish do not congregate in swim areas.”

Aguilar warns, for Laughlin’s boaters, that without a depth finder or knowledge of the area, damage could occur on the boats from either objects sticking up out of the water or phantom islands that appear when the water is low.

“If you’re boating, be aware of hidden dangers that appear at low levels,” Aguilar said. “If you’re skiing, stay in the middle of lake instead of the shore. There’s no lifeguards on the lake, and it takes ambulances nearly 30 minutes to get to the lake, so being safe is very important.”

For Aguilar, when a trip to the lake is properly planned and precautions have been taken, Lake Amistad is a place that keeps many coming back time-and-time-again.

“It’s the best place to be,” Aguilar said. “Lake Amistad truly is a hidden game out here.”