Airboat Surveys Lake Auman

Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot.

By Mary Moore


Airboats, usually right at home on the swamplands of the Southeast, have been pressed into additional service lately.

The Seven Lakes West Landowners Association’s Lake Committee gave Lake Auman a check-up recently by contracting an airboat to perform an underwater survey.

So if you saw a strange vessel with a giant fan rounding Lake Auman, you weren’t imagining things. While the contraption would look less out of place on a Louisiana bayou, the airboat has a special purpose here when it comes to taking measurements. Unlike propellers, airboat fans can power the vessel along without churning the water or disrupting the lakebed environment. A flat bottom makes progress even smoother. Airboats are perfect for close study in shallow waters, such as in swamplands. 

Lake Committee Co-Chairman Rob Caldwell said that the committee solicited the help of a state management service to conduct what’s called a bathymetric study. For those less familiar with marine jargon, a bathymetric study involves hydroacoustic mapping of the depth and underwater features of a body of water. It took three days to conduct the study, while slowly circling the lake.

“It’s a very clear, healthy lake,” said Caldwell. “But the lake is a living body if you will, constantly changing — the use it gets, the water patterns, etc.”

When researchers finish their analysis of the collected data, they will shed some light on the landscape of Lake Auman. The committee will know more about fish populations, invasive species, water quality, leaf buildup and sediment levels from road runoff, which will help them create long-term and short-term goals.

For example, a vegetation management plan can be established, and the committee can concentrate on removing invasive weeds with chemical spraying. A “dredging” plan will focus on removing sediment buildup. 

“We will use this data to maintain and care for the lake on a long term basis,” said Caldwell. “It’s been there for forty years, but we need a new baseline for making important decisions about it.”

These types of studies are not uncommon, especially on a manmade lake. Lake Auman won’t need another survey for quite a few years. But in the meantime, researchers will continue work as a consultant to keep Lake Auman in top form.

Contact Mary Moore at (910) 693-2462 or