The drought is creating some muddy dangers on dry lake beds.
Just ask Ed Roberts.
He was stuck in a boggy hole on Lake Hefner's expanding shoreline.
Along drought-stricken bodies of water, pockets of water can lie under the sand, some covered with a top layer that appears crusted and cracked.
“You can never know how deep the pocket is. You might end up stuck up to your waist or you could sink deeper,” Roberts said.
Getting stuck in the mud has been a problem for livestock around vanishing farm ponds.
Mucky silt deposits can stay wet for more than a year, said Nels Rodefeld, with the state Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Dry ground that once was underwater can give way to waist deep mud.
“It might look like it's dry out there, but when you put your foot down you're up to your knee,” Rodefeld said.
Most mud bogs around Oklahoma lakes are 3 to 4 feet deep, Rodefeld said, but just how far down some go is hard to tell since land that has been underwater for more than 50 years now is being exposed.
As Oklahoma's drought continues, murky hazards will remain around lakes and ponds that are drying up.
It is illegal to drive off road at most state lakes and parks, but there are no laws against walking on a dry lake bed, Rodefeld said.
Watch your step
Roberts said the ground he was walking across at Lake Hefner looked solid. But he sank and found himself trapped. He lay on his back and pulled himself through the mud.
“One second I was standing on dry sand, the next I was knee deep and sinking quickly. Luckily, I was able to lay flat, crawl, and pull myself free. Had this happened to a weaker person or a child, this could have easily ended in a fatality,” Roberts said.
That was October 2011; the ongoing drought has exposed more land since. People need to beware of the danger, he said.
“With this going to be a problem for an extended time and the proximity of Stars and Stripes Park to Lake Hefner, I feel that it is only a matter of time until someone has to be rescued or worse,” Roberts said.
While it is illegal to drive off road at Oklahoma City lakes, walking along the shorelines is allowed, said Debbie Ragan, Oklahoma City's utilities department spokeswoman, but people should be cautious.
“We would like to remind people that just because the lake bottom looks dry, it may not be. There is a lot of silt that has been under water for many years. It could still be wet and people could get stuck,” Ragan said.
Roberts knows the dangers firsthand.
“What makes it difficult to escape is that the moisture forms suction around your feet so it actually feels like someone is grabbing you around the ankles,” Roberts said. “My legs aren't in the best shape anyway. Believe me, I could barely walk the next few days after getting out.”