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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District News

Low lake levels at Skiatook lake make bluff jumping even more dangerous

park ranger, Skiatook Lake
Published June 11, 2013
Jumping from bluffs such as this at Skiatook Lake is unlawful and possibly fatal.

Jumping from bluffs such as this at Skiatook Lake is unlawful and possibly fatal.

SKIATOOK, Okla. — Skiatook Lake is still more than six feet below normal. A huge safety concern exists this summer for lake visitors making the decision to engage in the unlawful activity of bluff jumping. Unaware of the lower lake level, it is feared that many jumpers may simply return to their favorite rock and make what could be a fatal decision to jump. This past weekend, this fear became a reality as a young man lost his life at the lake after bluff jumping.

”Bluff jumping” is defined as jumping, diving, or swinging from any natural or manmade structure including rocks, trees, ropes, bridges, or shoreline bank.

With a decrease in lake levels comes an increase in the many hazards associated with bluff jumping. The lower lake level increases the jumping distance to the water and decreases the depth of underwater obstructions. Increasing the jumping distance also increases the force of impact on the lake surface as well as the depth the jumper penetrates the water. Increasing the force of impact and penetration depth increases the effects that a rapid change in blood pressure can have on the body. All of these parameters entered into the equation can equal tragedy.

Since Skiatook Lake’s construction in the mid 1980’s, the total number of this type of fatality is now seven. Despite past efforts to educate the public, limit vehicle access, and remove rope swings and trees, this dangerous activity continues at the lake.

In the summer of 2008, two young men lost their lives bluff jumping at Skiatook Lake. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers implemented a new bluff jumping policy on the lake at the beginning of the 2009 recreation season. The entire Osage Park Recreation Area, the northeast and southeast corners of the State Highway 20 bridge, the north side of Armadillo Island, and the Bull Creek Recreation Area were all posted, restricting this activity. Although there are many other areas around the lake equally as dangerous, these areas were chosen because they are popular jumping areas.

Since the implementation of this policy, there had been no bluff jumping fatalities on the lake until this past weekend.

Park Rangers will continue with their efforts to educate the public as well as write citations to lake visitors choosing to engage in this dangerous activity.