Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

May 22, 2009

Illinois River ripe for floating

On the eve of Memorial Day weekend, anyone interested in floating the river is in for some good news.

According to Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission Administrator Ed Fite, Illinois River levels are well within the recommended floating conditions as set by the Ilinois River Association. Even better, no measurable rainfall is in the forecast for the area over the holiday.

Fite said levels are expected to continue to fall, and that all campgrounds and public access areas are open. Despite all the good news, Fite issued a note of caution for first-time floaters.

“Until this past weekend, Illinois River levels and flows have been higher than historical averages for the entire 2009 spring season,” said Fite. “It is recommended that first-time and novice floaters use rafts for floating as there are some fallen trees and other debris in the river that may present a navigational hazard. We also recommend that everyone float and swim smart from the start, by wearing a personal flotation device, or life jacket, at all times while floating and swimming.”

Oklahoma law requires children under age 13 to wear a PFD.

Some floaters may need to exercise extra caution if they plan to float the upper Illinois, in Adair County.

During the next two weeks, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation will begin demolishing and removing the Old U.S. 59 Highway Bridge over the Illinois River north of Watts, in Adair County. Floaters planning a trip in that area are asked to pay particular attention when floating under the old bridge, as fallen debris from the removal process may present a hazard, said Fite.

Other considerations for a safe float trip:

• If you capsize, stay with your flotation device on the upstream side. Resist the urge to grab a fixed object. Don’t get pinned between the floatation device and a rock or tree.

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