Corps urges safety near frozen Raystown Lake

Published Feb. 5, 2014
A frozen lake view from Point Camp, located in Seven Points Recreation Area.

A frozen lake view from Point Camp, located in Seven Points Recreation Area.

Raystown Lake, Pa. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is urging visitors to use caution when walking or playing near the now-frozen Raystown Lake. 

Sustained freezing temperatures have created a layer of ice on the surface of Raystown Lake, a rare occurrence according to some of the park’s most experienced park rangers.  Consequently, visitors may be tempted to walk onto the ice.  However, Corps officials stress visitors to consider the following risks before getting on the ice:

• Emergency assistance will be very delayed or non-existent
• There are fewer people visiting the lake, so no one nearby will hear calls for help
• Raystown is known for steep drop-offs and deep water that offers no safe footing
• Raystown is a manmade lake with fluctuating levels creating hidden air pockets and cracks
• If cold water shock doesn’t kill in the first 60 seconds, hypothermia surely will in 10 minutes

Cold shock occurs when the body is suddenly immersed in cold water.  Cold shock is uncontrollable, automatic and immediate.  It causes heavy gasping, uncontrollable hyperventilation, heart strain — and that’s just in the first minute.  Many victims believe they can swim to safety before hypothermia sets in, but cold shock kills far more people than hypothermia.  Buy yourself some time by always wearing a lifejacket around cold water.

“Ice thickness is not measured by the staff at Raystown,” said Park Ranger Melissa Bean.  “Although visitors may see evidence of ice fishing, skating or other activities, we do not recommend any safe locations to participate in these activities.”

There are no rules prohibiting visitors from venturing onto the ice.

If you decide to venture out on the ice, keep in mind:
• Wear a life jacket!  They provide added insulation against the cold as well as flotation in an emergency.
• Leave an “ice plan” with a reliable person who will notify 911 if you do not return as scheduled.  At minimum the plan should identify where you’re going, when you’re expected to return, how many people are going and what they’re wearing.
• Always bring a buddy who can help or get assistance in the event of an accident, but make sure if you both venture onto the ice you stay several yards apart.
• The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission recommends 4” of ice per (200 lb) fishermen with gear.  The only real way to know ice thickness is by getting a sample or boring a hole, but remember ice thickness varies.
• Aid self rescue by bringing ice picks or tying off to the shore with a rope.  And don’t forget that change of dry clothes!

All boat launches are currently inaccessible due to ice.  With the exception of Tatman Run and Weaver Falls, all launches and access points remain open to the public.

Melissa Bean

Release no. 14-001