Lake Tapps open Saturday, but not for motors

Swimmers, kayakers and paddle boarders are welcome on Lake Tapps Saturday.

Anything with a motor will have to wait.

The popular reservoir in East Pierce County will open at 8 a.m., but needs more water before motorized recreation is safe, officials at the Cascade Water Alliance said Thursday. The organization owns the lake bed and the water and maintains it as a future drinking water source.

“It looks like a lake now,” spokeswoman Elaine Kraft said. “There’s still probably some stumps, so we’re telling people to be really careful.”

Cascade drained the reservoir of much of its water last fall for maintenance. Crews tried to refill it by their usual Memorial Day deadline but ran into trouble when White River flows fell far below historic lows.

Working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Cascade this month took some river water that was stored behind Mud Mountain Dam and added it to the lake.

That brought Lake Tapps to its current elevation of 537 feet. But Kraft said contours of the lake bed vary across the reservoir, making it hard to estimate the depth of the water.

Some boat launches aren’t yet usable, she said. Recreational levels need to reach between 541.5 and 543 feet.

The Corps will release more water into the lake the last week of June and the first week of July.

At that point, it’s possible that motorized watercraft will be able to use the water — if officials are convinced it’s safe.

“We just don’t know at this point,” Kraft said.

She cautioned that the newly released glacial water will be chillier than usual because it hasn’t had a chance to warm up.

“A lot of that water (usually) has been sitting there for a couple years,” Kraft said. “This year, we refilled it all. It’s cold.”