04/23/06 — No swimming at Cliffs

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No swimming at Cliffs

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on April 23, 2006 2:02 AM

SEVEN SPRINGS -- The swimming area at the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park is filling up, but it's not ready for swimmers yet.

With six weeks to go before the lake's scheduled opening, Park Ranger Dan Smith said the 11-acre manmade swimming hole needs more than 3.5 feet before the water is at the level it needs to be.

"That's a lot of water," he said.

But swimmers need not worry about their Memorial Day weekend plans, Smith said.

He said he still thinks the lake will be open for the holiday -- its traditional opening day.

The swimming area will remain open through Labor Day from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. An admission fee is required, and swimming is permitted only when lifeguards are on duty.

Smith said that although the beach might be a little larger this summer, the lake levels are still ahead of last year.

Last summer, low water levels prevented any swimming.

This year, the lake is just slow, Smith said.

"Normally in April we get the rains. This year, we're not getting them again," he said. "But we're definitely in better shape than last year."

The diving platform, which has undergone some renovation, still sits high in the water. The swimming area also has a bathhouse and refreshment stand, which was open last summer.

"A lot of people come here to camp," Smith said. "We were at near capacity Easter weekend, and I believe we were the busiest in years statewide."

He said rangers at two other parks told him they were also very busy. He attributed the increased camping activity to the good weather.

But swimming remains the most popular activity at the Cliffs, which have unusually high elevations for the eastern part of North Carolina. Smith said he has been told the natives who were in the area before the settlers arrived from Europe used the cliffs as Indian ceremonial grounds.

Updates on the lake levels are available by calling 778-6234 or on the park's Web site, www.ncsparks.net.