Drought brings unseen dangers in Oklahoma's dry lake beds

Dry lake beds can create muddy hazards in a drought. An Oklahoma City man says he was stuck in the mud last year at Lake Hefner.
BY ROBERT MEDLEY rmedley@opubco.com Modified: January 30, 2013 at 11:23 pm •  Published: January 31, 2013

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.

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