Our Day Trip to Camp Jellystone at Lake Eufala
*Trigger warning if you have issues with water safety this may be a hard read for you*
Dang that wanderlust gene! I woke up one day last week knowing we needed to get the house picked up for our housecleaner and that she would be here for a good 3-4 hours cleaning the house. I hate being home when my cleaners are here, it’s so awkward. They are the sweetest and even though sometimes I sit in my office and work, in general I try to get out of their way on the days they are here.
Does anyone else make their kids clean for the cleaners? Yep? Me too. Once the #condercrazies had thoroughly picked up their rooms, done their assigned daily chores and gotten into swim clothes WITH cover ups and SHOES we ventured out into the car. I had been looking up various places we could escape for the day for a little one day trip and remembered that Camp Jellystone at Lake Eufala had opened the year before. My kids are better swimmers this year and I thought maybe we could handle it.
Lake Eufala is a super pretty lake about 2 hours from Oklahoma City, a decent jaunt to feel like you are going somewhere fun, but not too far to drive there and back in one day. We set out with a cooler bag packed with lunch for the drive and the warning that they HAD to wear lifejackets with no fighting me or we could not go. As a mama of 4 close in age, I am generally very laid back but water safety is one thing I don’t lax on at all. I know that when I am watching my kids solo I have to be extra vigilant. I prayed that our trip would go smoothly and most importantly that we would all be safe, in driving and especially in the water.
We made our drive through Oklahoma and the kids unplugged from the matrix (as we call electronic time in our house) enough to enjoy the view, fight, argue over who got which identical peanut butter sandwich and we got lost. By lost, I mean we took a slight detour into scary, backroad, confederate flag “lake” area where I also lost all service. We made our way back to the main road and parked in a church parking lot until our service returned and renavigated to our destination. 2.5 hours later we had made it!
Day passes are $10 each, nothing to sniff at x5 humans but not really any more expensive than our community pool and definitely cheaper than a traditional water park. The day pass includes lifejackets, the lake area, the wibbit (giant inflatables on water), a giant inflatable slide, mini boats, kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing, pool and water areas and playgrounds. You basically get free run of ALL the activities for the entire day between 10AM-8PM. We arrived around 2pm with the plan to stay until 6pm, eat pizza by the pool and then head home.
We started off on the Wibbits, of course! I have to admit, this makes my mama heart anxious. I was definitely in helicopter crazy water mom mode and took myself out there and hiked my not small butt up there to monitor my own kids and help them off and on the inflatables. The wibbit is far enough from shore and in water that I could not touch so I highly recommend you leave the phone on shore and go play with your kids. It’s not only a great memory maker but it’s WAY safer. I saw so many kids totally unsupervised and making bad decisions in murky lake water with no lifejackets. We spent at least 1.5 hours out there and the kids had a BLAST! My 3 littles, ages 6, 6, and 7 were all in lifejackets and Max (almost 10 and a strong swimmer) was not. So I was relatively more comfortable as long as I could see all of them. I kept my 3 littles corralled on one side and kept verbally checking in with Max if he was out of sight. We also have a thumbs up system in water. If my kids are farther away, in lifejackets or not and I give them a thumbs up they know to give me one back to let me know they are ok and not struggling. I know, I sound like a freak but I only have 2 eyes and 4 kids and was flying solo. After having several dear friends lose their kids to water accidents I don’t really care if I am the mom that is paranoid around water.
One thing I totally forgot about was making sure my kids were in their BRIGHT swimwear. After connecting with Brooke and the Maverick Movement we buy our kids bright swimwear so they are easy to spot in the water. However, we get a lot of hand me downs and I let my kids dress themselves most days and totally forgot to make sure they were dressed bright for swimming. I was kicking myself as it truly is such an easy way to make sure you can easily spot your kids.
After my mom eyes were tired of watching the Crazies like a hawk we decided to take a break and go check out the watercrafts. I appreciated that everyone needed a lifejacket to boat and we spent awhile paddling around the lake which the kids loved! I finally convinced them to take a break for some pool time so we headed up the hill and to the pool area. The campground has a pretty nice pool with a small “splashpad” area for littles so mine were right back in the water before they declared they WERE STARVING. We got a souvenir cup to share a cherry limeade that came with 4 free refills and some soft pretzels and mac and cheese. Water play=eat all the carbs.
The boys played basketball and the girls continued to swim and make new friends while I enjoyed an hour of only watching 2 kids in the water. I should say there are lifeguards in all areas who seemed to be attentive to their jobs. No one was on their phone or goofing off. Max begged to go back to the lake area and the wibbit so back we went, lifejackets back on, I was not enthused about hiking my ass back on the wibbit but off we went. We continued to play and the kids had a great time! Now this is where things could have gone wrong. I was sitting on a middle part of the inflatable where I could see all my kids easily and verbally and visually check on them. Presley, the daredevil that she is, takes off running around the U shaped curve of the inflatable towards a wall where they can climb across American Ninja Warrior style. One portion of the inflatable connected to the next did not have a cover across it, and her feet hit exactly that connecting line. In 1 second she went from running across to falling right in between the portions and being UNDER the Wibbit. When I say inflatable don’t picture a raft you can push off, these are extremely heavy and anchored to the bottom of the lake. I immediately did the worlds most awkward dive off where I was (about 10 feet away) and in a solid 3-4 strokes was where she was. Her lifejacket had pushed her back up where her head was between the 2 pieces so she could breathe and this entire incident was literally maybe 5-6 seconds but it felt like an hour. I remember asking her if she could breathe, she was already crying and shaking her head when I realized I would have to pull her out from underneath. I reached under around some of the pieces holding it down to an anchor, grabbed her lifejacket and dunked her back under water in order to pull her OUT from under the inflatable. She was shaken up, I was swimming and trying to calm her down and let her hug me and hang onto me while treading water. I swam her over to the only other person who had seen this happen, a young teenage girl and she helped her back up. I then hiked myself back up for the 5th time that day and reassured her that she was fine and checked on my other 3 kiddos.
All of this happened in just a few minutes. I cannot tell you how grateful I was in that moment that I am a paranoid water mom and I was sitting right there. I cannot explain how relieved I was that I stuck to my guns and made my kids wear lifejackets. All 4 of my kids CAN swim, but I cannot watch all 4 of them in open water, especially with inflatables full of nooks and crannies.
It was literally an instant. Had she not been wearing a lifejacket and I was 100 feet away on the shore literally 1 teenager would have seen her slip between this crack. This young girl was literally frozen as I dove in and pulled Presley out. Absolutely not her job to be watching her but it just goes to show you that not everyone will react in an emergency.
There were THREE lifeguards on the Wibbit area when this happened and not one of them saw her slip between. I am also grateful that I am a strong swimmer and never feared my own safety when helping her. You cannot be too careful in the water, even when doing everything possible to have a safe and fun day on the lake we had a very close call that day. I made my kids play for another 20-30 minutes because I don’t want them to fear the water but I do want them to have a healthy respect for why it’s SO important to use good caution and be respectful of water safety. I think they all learned a very important lesson about why Mom is always a little bit crazy around water.
Despite our scary few minutes the kids resumed playing and Presley recovered well. She was a bit shaken up and wanted to talk about it throughout the rest of the afternoon but I reassured her that we did everything right and how glad I was that God and Mama was watching out for her. We finished our time at Jellystone with a pizza from their cafe (very yummy!) and another hour or so in the pool. Just like falling off a horse, I wanted her back in the water and swimming. I should say you do sign wavers before you enter the campgrounds but I still asked to speak to a manager. I explained that because the piece was missing a cover across the connection how quickly Presley had slipped through and been caught underneath. Despite the fact that I was helicopter mom and out there with my kids, the majority of parents were not. I would hate for anyone else to get hurt because I didn’t speak up and alert them to our situation. They were very receptive and apologetic and assured me they would go check on the piece in question.
We finished up our day trip with a stop at Braums for ice cream and a 2 hour drive home. The sunset was beautiful as always and our road trip was surrounded by cows and fields and it reminded me why I love living in Oklahoma. People assume there isn’t much to appreciate in a land locked flyover midwestern state but we love it. We had a GREAT day at Camp Jellystone and the kids made great memories. Presley is not traumatized by what happened but I was for about 24 hours. Retelling this story gives me anxiety again, but I am focused on the good of the day and grateful that I prayed that prayer of safety before we headed out. We will absolutely return another time, and probably camp there sometime too, but you can bet I will still be THAT MOM out there in my momsuit patrolling the water area with a good dose of paranoia.
Be safe this year in the water! For more information on safe water practices and why you should Buy Bright, check out the Maverick Movement here.