Lake traffic (boating) much lower this summer. Why?

I understand (it’s the economy, stupid) but boating activity on local lakes has been amazingly low all summer, and appears to be falling year over year. Anecdotal I know, but lake traffic was so low we could ski/tube even on the 4th of July this year (normally too hazardous to attempt). I remember summer holidays that required officers to direct traffic at launch ramps, but this year some parking lots aren’t even full. The 4 restaurants normally open on our lake declined to just one (IIRC, the others gave up by mid-July). There just isn’t enough activity to support them.

I’m curious about any SDMB theories to explain this. I get that the economy is probably worse than the “official” reports, but I would’ve expected an upturn in lake/boating activity as things recovered. I also understand there’s a drought, but locally we have plenty of water for recreational use.

Any ideas? Theories?

The best we can come up with:

  1. Demographic shift: Young people aren’t starting ($$), old people less active (or less likely on busy weekends).
  2. Demographic shift (II): Economy recovering, but more for women than men. Women are less likely to spend money on expensive hobbies.
  3. Economy: It’s much worse than we realize. Maybe even current owners can’t spare the money for gas/maintenance?
  4. This is very localized (to the lakes I frequent). I don’t know of any websites that track actual usage, rather than sales so I don’t know how busy things are elsewhere.
  5. Demographic shift (III): Young people are simply interested in other things, and don’t take up the activities (my kids’ take on it… their friends have little interest in an afternoon on the water).

I know I can ask this on a boating website, but I’m curious what you guys think.

I guess in North Texas it’s different but down here in Central Texas there’s not enough water in many of the lakes to go boating. Many places the boat ramps are now 30 feet from the water. Are you not suffering from the drought up there?

No not really. The lakes may be 5 or so feet down, but ramps and docks are usable in most cases. Texoma is at normal pool level, Arlington, Lewisville, Eagle Mountain, and Joe Pool are all 4-7 feet down (roughly). This doesn’t make them unusable or even particularly dangerous (IMO). The outliers (Bridgeport, PK) are down a lot, but I’d expect that to concentrate the boating even more in our area.

NMMA is actually reporting an increase in boat sales over the last two years (6 to 10% depending on how you read it), our area is growing rapidly in housing and population, and the economy here in NorTex is booming. Yet 3 quarters of the lakeside restaurants have shuttered and the water’s (relatively) deserted. I’m just wondering, “Where did everybody go?”

A number of boaters I know say the current price of gas has had them limit their time on the water.

For us it’s a combination of can’t afford to get the boat up to snuff and disinterest on my part. I’d rather go hang out with my grand daughter than go fishing.

Local news says many lake levels here (Oklahoma) are over 100% of normal full this year. Seeing more sailboats but less ski boats at the various lakes I’ve personally been to. One very popular skiing lake was held up by too high water levels affecting boat ramp access and on the water safety (picnic areas just under the water, etc…).

Quite a change from the last couple of drought years. Maybe it just takes a while to get back to normal.

This fairly recent article indicates the drought has been hitting Lake Texoma, although the focus in on area farming–not recreation. Not as bad as Lake Travis–but it sounds like boating might not be as enjoyable.

Are most of the boaters locals–or people who come from some distance? Seeing the news on our state’s ongoing droughtmight persuade them to go elsewhere. Or just not go boating.

I wonder where the drought line is now? Central and Northern OK lakes are high. Texoma is about 2 1/2 hrs driving time from me. Just visited friends in Princeton and McKinney and they have yard watering issues.

I don’t know anything at all about boating.
But of your 5 reasons, 3 of them don’t seem logical to me. Three times you mention “demographic shift”.
But changes in demography don’t happen in one season. It takes years, and happens gradually.

I think people are just better informed about where they can go boating. Everyone would formerly pile up into the same recreational spot because that was the “obvious” place to go. Now, a quick internet search can find locations that are just as good, less populated and closer to home. So it balances out the crowds a lot more (a good thing!)

More “don’t drink and boat” PSAs. People opting to stay home and drink.

But people have had that information for the better part of a decade now. It wouldn’t explain any downshift in boating this year as opposed to 2005-12.

Boater here. I have owned a crusier for a little over seven years, although I boat in rivers and bays and not lakes, and I have seen a steady decline in traffic, moorings, raft-ups, and slip use on the Delaware river and C&D canal since 2008.

It is a combination of gas prices which, as you know, can be 30 to 90 cents per gallon more at the dock than at a gas station, and the slow recovery of the economy.

We (western PA) had a wet spring, followed by a summer with rain every damned weekend. The few nice weekends we’ve had personal situations (family deaths and the like). We’ve spent less time on the water this year then ever before.

No. Really? The time I’ve spent pontooning I’ve seen plenty of evidence to the contrary.

How much gas do you use for a Sunday afternoon of pleasure boating?
Surely the gas is a very small percentage of the total cost.
I’ve never been on a boat in my life (almost), and I know nothing about owning or operating one. But boats are expensive toys, aren’t they?
I’d compare it to a car enthusiast: if you can afford to buy a classic car just for fun, surely the cost of a tank of gas won’t stop you from driving it with a friend on a beautiful sunny day .

Boats come in all types, like cars- from Ferrari to Edsel to old VW bugs-and each hobbyist has his budget. But you know it’s an expensive hobby to get involved with in the first place—so why is the price of gas a major factor?

I can burn a tank of gas on a Sunday pontooning. That’s roughly $50.

It depends on the type of boating you do. My boat is a 35 ft cruiser, and I use it for passages through the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and the Delaware river in New Jersey, so my boating is anywhere from 4 to 10 hours each way. From time to time, I will spend the night or the weekend at a marina other than mine. It costs over $1000 to fill my fuel tanks, so gas is one of my larger expenses. I have definitely curtailed my trips this season because of gas prices.

We planned to ski at a Lake Livingston ‘upchannel’ lakehouse this weekend but couldn’t because the water level was so low due to the drought and recent releases that we couldn’t lower the boat into the lake without bottoming. There were very few others in our area because of that and the fact our area had become unreachable to boats launched from the main lake because the navigable river linking them had become shallow too.

We also saw some trailered boats launch and run in the morning in the deeper parts of the lake, presumably on gas purchased on the way in for $3.50. But once those tanks ran dry we saw precious few boaters refilling from the marina and it’s $5.00 plus gas.