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River is Up – Let’s Go! (No Don’t)

By Don Mueggenborg

The river is up. Time to go paddling.  Finally deep water.  Good current.

How often have we wished for good, high water on our favorite river? Won’t have to worry about hitting the bottom with our paddles.  The good current will make the trip fast.

Not a good idea.

  1. When the river is in flood stage, there are no banks. Those trees that are along the banks, are now between you and higher ground. If you should dump, you won’t be able to get you and your canoe or kayak to the shore.A few years back, my partner Tom and I were paddling the Des Plaines Marathon. Water was high and we were moving.  (We probably should have called it off, but hindsight is better than foresight sometimes.)

    We heard a cry “help!” We came around the bend and saw two people in the water hanging on to their canoe.  We got up to them and they grabbed our boat and we drifted.  There was no way for them to get to shore.  Finally, after a mile and a half, we found a spot for them to get out.  They were cold and wet.

    Under normal water, they would have swam to the shore and been out, dumped the water from their boat and continued.

  2. The trees can be dangerous.   If you manage to get your boat out of the main stream, with the water flowing through the trees, you can’t get your boat through the trees safely. The current may wrap a boat around the trees or wedge it between the branches. 

    Even think about it if you have a kayak. You can’t paddle through the trees because there is not enough room for your paddle between the trees.

  3. The current can be fast and tricky.   The water is often swirling in eddies, moving you to places you don’t want to be, often fast enough to throw you off balance. Fast current, water pushes you into the trees as you come around a curve. We are not used to having to react so fast or even how best to avoid the trees.As much as I love to paddle, as many hours as I have in the canoe, as much as I think I am a good paddler – maybe the best thing to do today is not paddle or find a place to paddle in the back waters with no trees.

    See you on the river – when the water drops a bit.

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