Water Patrol gears up as the summer boating season approaches

Joyce Miller
A Missouri Water Patrol boat.

With the traditional start of the summer boating season one week from kicking off, the Missouri Water Patrol Division is ready to be out in force on Lake of the Ozarks. 

More boaters than ever are expected to head to the lake this summer. While the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic shut tourism destinations across the country down, Lake of the Ozarks drew boaters and visitors looking to for destinations that were open. If 2021 follows that trend, it could be another record-setting year. 

For the upcoming boating season to handle the tens of thousands of boaters who will be on the water,  The Missouri Highway Patrol Troop F has 20 officers trained to work the water, according to Lt. Stephen Burgun. Of those, 14 are assigned full-time to the Lake of the Ozarks. During holidays or special events, additional resources are available from Troop F, as well as other divisions across the state. One trooper in training will also be assigned to work with other officers on the water. 

Burgun is the Assistant Director of the Water Patrol Division. He is no stranger to Lake of the Ozarks has served locally for a number of years. Burgun was with the water patrol prior to the merger with the Missouri Highway Patrol in 2011. Burgun served as a supervisor on Lake of the Ozarks before being moved to Troop F Headquarters in Jefferson City. 

Burgun said the most common violations officers are citing boaters for on Lake of the Ozarks are related to safety violations. Boating While Intoxicated, failure to exercise the highest degree of care and lifejacket violations are among the most common. 

“Education and enforcement campaigns have had a positive effect on awareness of boating while intoxicated.  Each year the Missouri State Highway Patrol participates in the national boating campaign, “Operation Dry Water”, which focuses on reducing alcohol-related crashes and fatalities through increased recreational boater awareness, Burgun said.

While there are no big changes coming to Lake of the Ozarks enforcement efforts this summer, Burgun said the water patrol division is encouraging boaters to remember the  Limited no-wake restrictions on Lake of the Ozarks and to be courteous and responsible when on the water. 

“For those that apply for and meet certain requirements, boats 40’ in length or greater must operate at idle speed while within the restricted area.  These areas are marked with signs on either side of the shoreline.  A map of Lake of the Ozarks is available that indicates which areas are approved for limited no wake,” he said. 

The rule allowing limited no-wake zones were implemented in 2020. The law allows for the limited no-wake cove rule to apply to 40′ boats and larger in coves where the waterway narrows to 800′ or less. The rule is the result of legislation passed in 2018.

Prior to the new rule, the law required coves to be 400″ or less to be considered for no-wake designation. The no-wake zones are required to be approved by the water patrol division through a permitting process. 

The rule is aimed at increasing safety and reducing property damage from wakes created by larger boats. 

A partial list of coves with limited no-wakes zones includes:

• A portion of Jennings Branch Cove at the 1-mile marker 

•Lynch Hollow Cove at the 10-mile marker 

•Indian Creek Cove on the Gravois Arm near the 6.2-mile marker  •A portion of Mill Creek Cove on the Gravois Arm near the 3-mile marker 

•Watson Hollow Cove on the Grand Glaize Arm near the 1.7-mile marker 

•Niangua Arm beginning at the 9.5-mile marker and going upstream 

For a complete look at the map showing all limited no-wake zones go to the  Missouri State Highway Patrol, Water Patrol Division page,  https://apps.mshp.dps.mo.gov/MSHPWeb/WaterPatrol/index.html  Also available on the home page is a boat wake courtesy video encouraging boaters to be aware of the wake.