Buoy Beware: Longtime boater notices many of Percy Priest's channel markers are in the wrong spots

Inexperienced boaters may accidentally run a-ground
Posted at 4:09 PM, Jun 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-20 18:34:35-04

SYMRNA, Tenn. (WTVF) — Saturday is the official start to summer, which means many people will spend the weekend at the lake. But a longtime boater reached out to NewsChannel 5, wanting to warn others, there could be some hidden dangers for boaters who aren't as familiar with the channel.

"I know this place like the back of my hand now," said Matthew Parker. "I've been regularly out on this lake for 20 years."

Over the last few weeks, he's noticed many of the channel markers on Percy Priest aren't where they're supposed to be. Because the lake is man-made, if boaters stray beyond the channel markers, they're at risk for running a-ground. "Either shifted or they’re gone completely, and some of them are missing from really relevant places where I think it could cause some damage if you don’t know the area," he said.

Some markers are just a touch out of place, but others, like one of the markers near the entrance to Fate Sanders Marina, could be problematic if a boater cuts the corner. "That’s only a foot or two deep," said Parker, who showed us around on his boat.

The worst example he's seen, is a little further north up the channel from Fate Sanders. "Afternoons when the sun is just right, you can actually see the bottom," said Parker.

A red buoy has shifted more than 20 yards towards the shallow end of a tight bend in the channel. It may not look like much of a change, but it could be all the difference between a fun weekend and a costly one.

Saturday afternoon, Parker actually saw a pontoon boat beach right next to where that red channel marker has washed up, and people from the boat were able to walk around. He believes that portion is only 1-2 feet deep. "We saw people standing, I mean right beside it where you could literally see their kneecaps," he said.

For experienced boaters like Parker that often own maps, they'll know looks can be deceiving. That's not who he's worried about. "A big revenue for the docks out here is boat rentals. And these people have never been on the lake. It’s not their fault that they don’t know where to go," said Parker.

So he hopes the Army Corps of Engineers, who maintains Percy Priest Lake, will come out and make adjustments. "There’s just numerous cases like this all around the lake," said Parker.

NewsChannel 5 reached out to the Army Corps of Engineers for this story, but so far, we haven't heard back.