The lake is full, the weather is predicted to be perfect, and all area residents and visitors are invited to come to Horseshoe Bend Saturday for the 2014 Big Horn Lake Celebration, featuring free boat rides into Big Horn Canyon.
The day begins with the Big Horn Canyon Triathlon at 7:30 a.m. (check-in from 6:30 to 7:15, see related story), and free boat rides will be offered from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“We’d certainly like to encourage everyone in the region to come and enjoy our recreation area, our diamond in the rough,” said Friends of Bighorn Lake President Steve Keil. “We appeal to anyone who wants to enjoy the canyon to come out and participate.”
Keil said the Horseshoe Bend Marina will be open and serving food, and the Friends of Bighorn Lake will be greeting people and providing information on aquatic invasive species.
“Last year we had about 450 people who came out, and we enjoyed having them all,” Keil said. “There were a lot of local people, but it was good to see people from Basin, Cody and Powell, too. We gave rides to people who marveled at the canyon and got them thinking about buying a boat. They really liked the experience.
“We’ve got about 10 to 12 boats lined up this year, 10 firm and possibly 12. We encourage people to come earlier rather than later to avoid the heat and longer lines.”
Keil said there will be three golf carts shuttling people from the parking lots to the boat dock.
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area will once again be providing kayak demonstrations during the lake celebration, promoting the second year of the Big Horn Lake Kayak Program.
Chief of Interpretation Christy Fleming said the kayak demonstrations will run from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. between the fishing dock and the swimming beach. Giving the demos will be rangers Shawn Williams and Jonathan Welde.
“It’s a chance to meet the guys and get used to the equipment,” Fleming said, noting that people will be given a brief demonstration ride.
Fleming also noted the dedication of the new horse range interpretive signs at 3 p.m. at the Crooked Creek Bay parking lot, followed by an artist in residence demonstration from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Two Eagles Interpretive Trail presented by artist Karen McClain.
Keil was elected president of the Friends of Bighorn Lake Board of Directors in June, taking over for longtime president Bob Croft, who resigned in April after some eight years at the helm. Croft will remain with the organization as secretary and advisor.
Other board members are Ken Grant, Joe Anderson, John Nickle, Ferrell Mangus, Jerry LaFleiche, Lynn Richardson and Tom Newman.
“We have some big shoes to fill, and we plan no changes,” said Keil. “We will carry on with what Bob has done for the last eight years. Our goal is to work with the Bureau of Reclamation and the National Park Service to make a good lake great.
“We’ll try to stay in touch with what’s going on. We have a vested interest in this end, and we’re not going away.”
Keil said the organization is holding off on a few projects for improving the lake until a new superintendent for the park is in place. He noted the recent success of getting a large billboard placed in Lovell promoting Big Horn Lake, and he expressed appreciation to everyone involved in the project.
Keil and wife Chris both grew up in Lovell. Keil is the son of the late Walt and Jane Keil, and Chris is the daughter of Patsy and the late Emil Brost.
Keil graduated from Lovell High School in 1972, lived in Billings for 10 years, then Salt Lake City for more than 30 years. He retired as a truck driver two years ago and moved “back home” to Lovell to “get out of the rat race.”
Keil said he is open to any ideas people may have for the organization.
“I would like to invite people in this area, if they have any suggestions and ways to improve the lake to give me a call at 548-7785,” he said. “We want to make their lake a better place. We’re here for the general public to improve their lake.”
By David Peck