June 18, 2013
With a couple more inches of rain on top of the several inches we have seen in the past week, river levels are continuing to rise. Rafting companies have had to turn away business this Spring because the water levels are too high.
During a typical Spring, the office of the James River Reeling and Rafting office is bustling with people with their jackets and tubes.
Ashley Denby, the Operations Director at James River Reeling and Rafting, explained, "Normally, by the first couple weeks of May, once kids start getting out of school and parents get anxious trying to figure out what to do with them and planning summer schedules, the phone typically start ringing."
This Spring has been a different story. There have been frequent rain storms and the James River levels are too high and unsafe for people to be on the river.
Denby said, "The rain that we've been getting and the headwaters have been pushing a lot of water down river to us. You have a lot of unforeseen danger under the water that people are necessarily aware of that can really affect your boat, you could pop a tube."
It's not that people aren't interested in cruising down the river, but most phone calls have ended with turning away customers.
Denby said, "It just makes it really difficult to get out at the take out spots when the river's moving so swiftly. In the end, it's all about safety here and it's too high to run and too unsafe for people, that's why we have a cut off point."
The cut off point for James River Reeling and Rafting is six and a half feet. Right now, the James River is running between seven and eight feet, average depth.
Denby said, "If you flip over in your boat and can't touch the bottom that's typically when you have the most problems."
Just a little bit of rain can cause the river lever to rise. That also speeds up the pace of the water and that's exactly why local water rescue teams say now's not the time to be on the river.
The Scottsville Volunteer Fire Department has been handling the local water rescues for over two years. They say now if the time to be most careful around and on the rivers.
Timmy Cersley, the Chief at the Scottsville Volunteer Fire Department, said, "First of all, we would hope that nobody is out there today. But, in the event that people do, with the fishing and things that go on in the river, we ask that they use precaution and stay away from and trees that have been dropped into the river because they act as strainers and they can pull you into it and get sucked up under the tree and not be able to get back out of it. The rapids are swollen and you may not see the rocks that could easily tip you over and drop you into the rocks, with the same situation, the boat could get hung up and not able to get out of it in time."
The Scottsville Volunteer Fire Department has a team of 20 train shore supporters and 15 river entry trained members. Chief Cersely says it's not a good idea to walk along the river banks for the next few days because the ground can slide away from you. If this happens you could easily be swept away in the rushing river current.
To check out the water levels go to the James River Reeling and Rafting website.