It's an annual holiday pilgrimage for many north central Arkansas residents as they flock to the cool waters of the Spring River. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wildlife officers are also making plans as the calender turns to summer.
According to wildlife officer Lt. Steve Taylor, plans are to bring in several wildlife officers from other parts of the state to help in patrolling the Spring River in Fulton and Sharp counties during the summer's holiday weekends.
"We will have officers both on the river in canoes and on the bank to try and curtail some of the many complaints that we normally receive during the holidays," he said.
Wildlife officers will be enforcing all AGFC regulations, as well as assisting other agencies with alcohol problems and disorderly conduct. Taylor said that special emphasis would be placed on a new state law which took effect last year pertaining to the possession or use of glass containers on waterways. "The law states that except for substances prescribed by a licensed physician, no person may possess or use glass containers within a boat that is susceptible to swamping, tipping or rolling. This includes inner tubes, kayaks and canoes," Taylor said.
Other parts of the law read:
Persons in these vessels transporting a cooler, icebox or any container for food or beverages must make sure that the container is properly sealed or locked to prevent the contents from spilling into the water if the vessel were to overturn.
Persons in these vessels must carry and affix to the vessel a container or mesh bag suitable for containing their trash materials.
They must also transport all the waste to a place where the materials may be safely disposed.
At all times when a beverage is not in the sealed container, it must be attached to or held within a floating holder or other device designed to prevent the beverage from sinking beneath the surface of the waterway.
Taylor emphasized the importance of safety when it comes to recreation on Arkansas' waterways. "The wearing of personal floatation devices is a major concern, especially to children under 13 years of age. The law requires that children in this group must wear their lifejackets while aboard a boat (with a few exceptions) and we will have zero tolerance in enforcing this regulation," he added. Persons 13 and older are not required to wear a lifejacket, but must have one in the boat and are encouraged to wear it.
Many people have a misconception about wearing lifejackets on Spring River. "They often think that they don't need to wear one on a small river such as the Spring, thinking that it is shallow and can be crossed by foot in several places. Although there is truth in this, it is far from the truth if they think that this river cannot be dangerous with the many falls and swift currents that are associated with it," Taylor said.