CARTERVILLE — Even life-long Southern Illinois residents have a tough time recognizing Crab Orchard Lake these days.
For those who aren’t aware, and judging from my calls and emails, that is a substantial number, the water level at Crab Orchard has been lowered four feet to allow repairs on the spillway. The repairs should be completed this winter, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials expect the lake to return to normal levels by spring.
The four-foot drop has dramatically changed the face of the lake.
In the past, driving Route 13 has presented travelers with placid views of a tree-lined shoreline. Now, some coves have completely dried up, the calm waters replaced by dried, cracked dirt. In other areas, the water has receded far from the bank, resulting in egret-lined pools or vast expanses of grass.
Some fishing piers are high and dry, their ramps closed because they are bent at precarious angles. And, the fishing structures? They protrude from the lake like gigantic spiders worthy of a role in a low-budget horror film.
The lower water levels have also changed the way boaters and anglers use the lake. Several boat ramps are unusable because of the low water. Other ramps are usable, but boats have to be cautious when launching or landing their boats. And, low water creates hazards in many areas.
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Finally, the entire lake seems to be circled by great egrets. Almost anywhere you go around the like these stately birds are feeding in the shallow water.
This is a collection of scenes from the lake: