It’s highly unlikely a salt-water fish, like a bull shark, is swimming around in freshwater Greers Ferry Lake, nibbling on swimmers. The rumor made the rounds, again, on social media, which reminds of the commercial-turned-mantra “They can’t put it on the internet if it isn’t true.”
Rural myths aside, Heber Springs Fire Chief Jason Robitaille admits it’s been a rough summer on area waterways.
“I want to remind people not to become complacent around the water,” Robitaille said.
Life jackets, or personal floatation devices, need to be worn on the lake, and people who get on the Little Red River need to search for and check the generation schedule of the dam before entering the water. As the demand for electricity goes up with rising temperatures, generation will increase, which in turn, causes the level of the river and the currents in the river to increase rapidly.
There have been five fatalities around the waterways so far this year. It started early, in March when a Pleasant Plains man drowned while working on his boat at Shiloh Marina.
In June, there was a fatal boating accident when a boat struck the shoreline, a drowning near Greers Ferry, and later in the month, there was a drowning by the bluffs near the Dam Site day use area where the victim was pulled from the water, but later died.
Mid-July proved busy as well. Thursday, July 15, Cleburne County Search and Rescue recovered the body of an overdue swimmer, marking the fifth fatality for the waterways.
Additionally rescuers were called out Saturday, July 17, to the middle area of the river for an overturned kayak which turned into two separate incidents and the safe recovery of four overturned kayaks containing six people. According to the United State Geological Services (USGS) the water temperature would have been 50-52 degrees.
The frequency of water rescues this summer has Robitaille researching ways to get first responders out to areas of the lake faster and the possibility of upgrading the dive team gear, for instance, getting full face masks with built in communication capabilities to help them when they are submerged in deep, dark water or cloudy, fast-moving river water.
With school being just around the corner and heat advisories blanketing the state, more traffic on Greers Ferry Lake and the Little Red River is expected, and with that, more risk for accidents.