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There are three main bodies of water in the community.
The first is the Main Lake, a 500-acre dendritic, man-made lake. Depth of the Main Lake ranges from two feet at the upper southwest end, where Flat Run feeds the lake, to 45 feet at the other end near Veterans Memorial Dam (depth map). The dam, which spans 1,400 feet along the northwest edge, was built in 1968. The normal level for the lake is 317.5 feet above sea level. This lake has two marinas, seven lake access areas, and eight sand beaches.
The Main Lake is a multi-use amenity for the enjoyment of a wide variety of water activities, including fishing, water skiing, pleasure boating, personal watercraft (PWCs), swimming, sailing, canoeing, and kayaking.
The second body of water is Keaton’s Lake, a 35-acre impoundment in Section13, also known as the Fishing Lake.
Keaton’s Lake is open to swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and use of electric-powered watercraft. Boats and PWCs powered by internal combustion engines are not permitted on this lake. The normal level for the lake is 284.0 feet above sea level (depth map). Keaton’s Lake has one public launch area and one sand beach.
The third body of water is the small front gate entrance pond. It is approximately two to three acres in size and serves as a sediment retention basin. Boating, swimming, and fishing are not allowed, except for the Annual Children’s Fishing Tournament, sponsored by the Fishing Club. The Main Lake is patrolled by security during the boating season and persons found in violation of regulations may be cited.
The speed limit on the Main Lake during daylight hours is 36 mph and boats must travel in a counter-clockwise direction around the lake. The speed limit on Keaton’s Lake is 5 mph.
LOWA Regulations provide detailed information on boating speed limits, boating rules, proper use of floats and PWCs, courtesy and consideration of other users of watercraft, and additional information. If you plan to be a regular lake user, be sure you are familiar with the lake user rules and regulations and have completed the Boater Safety Course.
The lake bottom was cleared of standing trees before filling with water, but underwater hazards still exist, such as tree stumps and rocks. No one should jump or dive into the water prior to an underwater examination of what might be there that can’t be seen from the surface.
There are a series of buoys placed around the Main Lake indicating “No Wake” zones between the buoys and the shore. Boats operating between the buoys and the shore are required to operate with NO WAKE. This is a safety issue as well as an erosion control issue.
LOW offers eight public beaches for swimming on the Main Lake, and one on Keaton's Lake. Regulations governing the use of beaches are posted at each location. All beaches close at 10pm. Lifeguards are not provided at any of LOW's beaches. Some beaches offer picnic tables and outdoor cooking facilities, and are available to members on a first-come, first-served basis.
Beaches are tested monthly from Memorial Day through Labor Day for the presence of e. coli bacteria that can be harmful to human health. Beaches that fall below a designated threshold for safe swimming are closed until follow up testing shows the beach to be safe for swimming.
Main Lake Beaches
Clubhouse Beach – Next to LOW Clubhouse (Section 18)
Cornwallis Beach – Cornwallis Ave (Section 8)
Edgemont Beach – Edgemont Circle (Section 5)
Happy Creek Beach – Mt. Pleasant Ave (Section 3)
Harpers Ferry Beach – Harpers Ferry Ave (Section 10)
Mt. Pleasant Beach – Mt. Pleasant Drive (Section 1)
Ramsay Beach – Ramsay Road (Section 7)
Skyline Beach – Skyline Road (Section 1)
Sailboat Beach is located next to the volleyball courts near Clubhouse Point. This beach is for use by sailboats, canoes, kayaks, the Junior Sailing Club, Rapidan Crew, and other activities using non-motorized boats requiring lake access, and is not to be used by swimmers.
Keaton's Lake Beach
Cumberland Beach – Cumberland Circle (Section 13)
There are two marinas on the Main Lake;the main marina is located on Riverdale Lane adjacent to the Veterans Memorial Dam spillway, and the small marina is located on Lakeview Parkway not far from the back gate. Both marinas offer boat slips, a public launch site for member use, and parking space for trailers. The main marina offers fuel sales when an attendant is on duty during the active boating season, May through September.
The Association provides boat slips at the two marinas and maintains a large vehicle storage lot near the main dam where members can store boats, RVs, and trailers year-round. (Members may store their boats on their own lot, subject to LOWA regulations regarding appropriate placement and cover materials.)
A slip assignment can be requested by calling the Association office. The slips are available for rental on a first-come, first-served basis to members for an annual fee. Members are encouraged to make docking arrangements with lakefront residents whenever possible.
The main marina gas station is open Tuesday through Sunday, Memorial Day through Labor Day. Hours of operation are 12:00 pm–7:00 pm Tuesday-Friday and 9:30am-5:30pm Saturday and Sunday. Closed Mondays. The station is open weekends only April to Memorial Day and Labor Day to mid-October from 9:30 am–5:30 pm.
No swimming is allowed at either marina.
Both marinas have boat ramps for launching boats and parking is available for cars/trucks and trailers while boats are on the lake. No overnight parking of cars/trucks or trailers is allowed at either marina. Parking is available for six cars/trucks with trailers and nine for cars/trucks without trailers at the main marina. Overflow parking for 10 to 15 cars/trucks on the grassy area, referred to as the meadow, is just past the marina. At the small marina, parking is available for 12 cars/trucks with trailers and 13 marked spaces for cars/trucks without trailers as well as overflow parking in the center of the lot, which is not marked.
The ramps are used on a first-come, first-served basis. All loading and unloading of supplies from the car/truck to the boat should take place prior to launch or retrieval in the parking lot so that ramps will not be occupied unnecessarily, forcing people to wait to launch or retrieve their boats.
If you use your boat outside of LOW, be sure to thoroughly clean the trailer, the bilge, the motor, and the outside of your boat to remove any possible remains of invasive aquatic plants and/or organisms before returning to LOW. These pests are not welcome in LOW and vigilance is required to prevent them from accidentally being transported to our lakes.
All boats and watercraft used on LOW’s lakes must be registered annually by May 1 and display a current LOWA decal, including sailboats, canoes, kayaks, and PWCs. Refer to the Fee Schedule for the current annual fee. Launching of “guest” watercraft that do not display a LOWA decal is not permitted. Members registering a boat must show evidence of having passed the LOW Safe Recreational Lake Users’ Examination, have a current member or tenant ID card, and proof of craft type, ownership, and adequate insurance. All boat registrations are handled at the Holcomb Building.
Powered boats, including sail watercraft with a single displacement hull, and deck boats are limited to 21 feet or less in length, exclusive of motors; pontoon boats are limited to 25 feet or less in overall length. Watercraft equipped with a toilet of any type, including port-a-potties, are not allowed on the lakes.
Powered boats and sailboats over 18 feet operated on our lakes must be titled but are not required to be registered with the State of Virginia unless other use or situations require it. Members are advised to be familiar with registration requirements appropriate to their own situation.
Lake users are advised that our lakes are subject to compliance with all Virginia and Orange County waterway use rules and regulations, registration requirements and applicable personal property taxes. LOW Security, state and local licensing authorities and law enforcement personnel (game wardens) are permitted to monitor our lakes for compliance with boating and fishing regulations. Members are advised to keep abreast of regulations and licensing obligations to avoid fines.
LOW anglers are subject to compliance with all Virginia fishing laws and licensing requirements (reg. X.I.1.).
Artificial fishing habitat has been installed in our lakes at various locations. Members are reminded that fishing lines must be attended at all times and trotlines are not permitted. Fishing line lost or discarded in the lake has many negative consequences including injuring or killing fish, crustaceans, birds, and other animals and causing damage to motors and propellers.
If you see a stray line please pick it up and dispose of it properly. Please use common courtesy when fishing from public docks or near private docks by employing safe fishing and boating practices. Fishing is not permitted at the front entrance pond, except for the annual Children's Fishing Tournament.
If you have any questions or comments about the water resources at LOW, please don’t hesitate to call the Director of Environmental Resources at 972-5548.
The Environmental Resources Department:
LOW employs an Environmental Resources Manager who is in charge of ensuring that our lakes remain healthy for humans and wildlife. Because upland streams feed our lakes, and our lakes affect water quality downstream, the Environmental Resources Management Program at LOW is quite comprehensive. Some elements of the program include water quality testing, monitoring lake water levels, maintenance and operation of the dams, installation of fish habitat in the lakes, and collection and interpretation of water resources data. If you have any questions or comments about the water resources at LOW, please call the Director of Environmental Resources at 972-5548.
Vegetation Management: What monitoring is done and what alternatives are available to residents for aquatic vegetation control around private beaches and docks.
Each summer (August/September) an aquatic vegetation survey is conducted, here's the 2011 Vegetation Survey map. The results of this year’s survey were good, as no emergent vegetation was observed, and resident complaints were minimal.
There are two main types of vegetation currently present in the Main Lake: hydrilla and nitella. Hydrilla is a non-native, invasive species that is out-competing our native vegetation and was likely introduced as a tag-along on someone’s boat. In addition, there are some water lilies at the south end of the lake that are not problematic. Excessive vegetation is considered an annoyance by some lake users, so an effort is made to maintain the vegetation at acceptable levels. Our primary method is biological control with sterile, triploid grass carp. Occasionally it becomes necessary for the Environmental Resources Manager to use chemical and/or physical means in addition to the carp. That said, some vegetation is important for maintaining a balanced ecosystem; it provides fish habitat, enhances water clarity, decreases nutrient concentrations in the water column, and oxygenates the lower levels of the lake.
Keaton’s Lake is devoid of aquatic vegetation, and this has led to decreased water clarity and anoxic conditions that are not conducive to the enjoyment of a multi-purpose lake. In an effort to restore Keaton’s Lake, bubblers were installed in 2010 to improve the amount of benthic oxygen in the lake. We are currently reviewing types of aquatic vegetation to reintroduce that will have the highest success rate and do the best to strike a balance to satisfactorily meet all lake users’ needs while maintaining ecological integrity.
Nutrient Management: What you can do to maintain a healthy yard and keep the LOWA lakes clean?
Land area from 15 watersheds drain into the Main Lake and four drain into Keaton’s Lake. Land use in the surrounding watersheds affects our lakes. For instance, cattle grazing or over-fertilization upstream can cause enhancements of nutrients in our lakes which can lead to algal blooms or excessive aquatic vegetation growth. For your information, a map of the watersheds surrounding our lakes is available and can be printed on your computer. Much of this land is totally outside our boundaries and we have little or no control over it. However, residents can make a huge impact on the quality of our lakes just from the decisions they make on their own properties. Homeowners should make environmentally conscious decisions in the management of their landscapes. To help the following links below are available for those interested in doing all they can to maintain a healthy yard and lake ecosystem.
2010 Nutrient Monitoring Report
LOWA has its own dredging equipment that is used to remove sand, silt, and organic matter from both lakes at storm water fallout sites on a three year cycle. Dredging activity maintains a buffer from all private property structures and is limited as to how much material can be removed that will not alter the original contours of the lake by government regulation. A hydrographic survey was completed in 2003, so lake bottom contours are known and this information has proven valuable in assessing present and future dredging activities.
Letter from LOWA General Manager Phil Rodenberg to DEQ Daniel Burstein regarding lake