Updated: Apr 11
Why no innertubes at Blue Marsh Lake? You have the question and we have the answer! Blue Marsh Lake, an Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) project is far from the only lake with this rule. The rule was created for your safety. You might think an innertube is harmless fun to use on a lake or river on a hot day. The truth is that there are serious dangers associated with the use of innertubes on any body of water.
Specifically, Blue Marsh lake lies within Berks County and is part of the Schuylkill River Basin and the Tulpehocken Creek in Leesport, Pennsylvania. The lake is a man-made lake that was developed for flood control and enhancing the quality of water supplied to the surrounding area. In addition to this it is also a hot spot for recreational activity like boating, kayaking, jet skiing, swimming, fishing, and more.
Blue Marsh Lake is 1,148 acres in size and features a small, designated swimming area surrounded by a no boat buffer area. No wake zones include the whole northern half of the lake, as well as areas within 100 feet of shore or swimmers. All swimming, whether in the designated swimming area or anywhere else in the lake, is at one's own risk. There are no lifeguards employed at Blue Marsh standing by at the ready to rescue someone who is having difficulty in the water.
If you are a non-swimmer and relying on an innertube this becomes problematic.
A text written by American Red Cross entitled Lifesaving: Rescue and Water Safety reads in part,
"Non swimmers require a considerable area of shallow water. They should not venture into water beyond shoulder depth. They should resist at all times the temptation to go beyond this depth with artificial supports such as air mattresses, innertubes ... or beach balls or on the shoulders of a swimming companion. If the unexpected happens and the non swimmer loses his support, the ability to regain the shore is also lost. Non swimmers should not use flotation devices in any locations where they would not be comfortable and safe without them. Weak or novice swimmers must confine their activities to areas in which they may be quickly and easily reached if anything goes wrong."
On June 28th, 1981 tragedy struck at Blue Marsh Lake after a park employee instructed 8-year-old Maria Rosa and her siblings to leave the designated swimming area. Maria was a non-swimmer, and she and her two older siblings were swimming with innertubes in the designated swimming area. At the time, the employees working at Blue Marsh Lake had been advised by management to enforce a no-innertube regulation inside the swim zone, to prevent horseplay in this area. Therefore, Maria Rosa and her siblings were told by the park employee to relocate outside of the swim zone. However, in relocating, the three siblings left the relative safety of the intentionally shallower water and packed, uniform bottom. Areas outside the swim zone are deeper and the bottom is rocky with sudden drop-offs and changes in depth.
While attempting to jump between innertubes Maria Rosa slipped, was unable to be rescued by her brother, became lost under the water, and tragically became a victim of drowning. The Rosa family filed a lawsuit in which Blue Marsh Lake was found to have been responsible due to failing to warn that the situation Maria Rosa was placed in was reasonably known to be unsafe. It was known to be unsafe due to the referenced text above from the Red Cross and by a study conducted by Blue Marsh's own park manager yielding results that indicated 70% of 150 innertube-users surveyed were either poor or non swimmers.
In the years since this tragic event, enforcement of swimming regulations has changed at Blue Marsh. Recreators are now disallowed from using non-Coast Guard-approved inflatable devices anywhere on the lake. This strict enforcement is sometimes met with confusion or frustration by those unfamiliar with the case of Maria Rosa, the topography of the lake bottom, or the data on drowning and water safety. Drowning can happen very quickly, even in posted swimming areas, if non-swimmers lose their support.
If a ranger or someone else tells you that you can't have an inntertube in the lake, this is why. It's been proven to be dangerous and the enforcement of the rule is for your own safety.
If you would like to learn more about Maria Rosa and the lawsuit brought against Blue Marsh Lake please click here.
Blue Marsh Lake Project Regulations ... CLICK HERE.