Boating safety near dams and turbulent waters

Local News

HARDIN COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is continuing its search and recovery mission on Pickwick Lake. Two students from Obion County High School and their chaperone, Kenneth Driver, were last seen during a weekend fishing tournament.

You may be wondering how their boat was able to pass through the flood gates in Hardin County. As a fellow fisherman, I am naturally concerned about how this terrible accident occurred.

Pickwick Dam has hydro-power generators, locks, and flood gates that are opened to release more water in times of heavy rains or high water. TWRA confirmed that a camera on the side nearest to the state park captured the missing boat before it went through the dam.

TWRA said that unfortunately the victims’ boat indeed went over one of the flood gates which is equivalent to going over a waterfall.

Unfortunately, because of engine trouble, they only had their electric trolling motor to power the boat and that was not strong enough to battle the strong current above the dam spilling over the flood gates.

We always talk about the dangers of the turbulent water below dams. Many accidents have occurred when boats overturned in turbulent waters.

There is also an obvious danger when above a dam as well. When the flood gates are open, there is nothing stopping you from being swept over the falls except your engine.

The TWRA recommends not getting close to the dam upstream or downstream.

“Depending on how much water flow there is determines how dangerous it could be. So in times like this, when there’s a high water flow, it could be a safety hazard to get near the dam. I would say stay a good safe distance away, at least 200 yards or more if it’s a high water condition, especially if they are spilling water through the flood gates. That’s an especially hazardous time, you should definitely stay away from a dam at that time,” said Glenn Moats with TWRA.

Of course, experts always say to wear your life jacket. Also, when fishing below a dam, it is not a good idea to anchor your boat, especially from the stern. The turbulent water can cause the boat to capsize when held by an anchor. You also might have to move your boat quickly if water conditions change.

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