Editor, Daily Press:
Recently, my wife, her cousin and spouse and myself went on a 12-mile rafting trip down the Illinois River. We had done this in the past and somewhat knew what we were getting ourselves into with the drinking and horseplay. We didn’t, however, expect to see it to the extent that we did two weekends ago.
First off, we witnessed about 15-20 drunk people gather in the office and sign a form that said the canoe dealer was not responsible for the deaths or serious injuries. Then, as soon as we got on the bus at the canoe livery, we were subjected to hearing non-stop cursing (“F-bombs” and all) from the time we left the livery until we reached our launching off spot. This, of course, was after we watched about 20 people, not walk, but stagger onto the bus due to the fact that at 9:30 a.m., most of them were already drunk. When we got to our departure point, we set out on what we hoped would be a good time, knowing we would have to encounter drunks along the way, but figured the worst was behind us. We were wrong.
For much of the trip, we had to endure a non-stop barrage of “F-bombs,” drunks crashing into our raft and constant pleas for us to give them a beer (which we didn’t have, because we apparently didn’t receive the memo that stated you had to have beer and be drunk to have a good time). During one point in our adventure, my wife’s cousin was hit in the face with a full, unopened can of beer by a person who was so drunk he/she could barely hang onto the boat. This caused her mouth to swell up and caused her pain for the rest of the day.
We saw several drunk men jumping into the river out of trees before even checking the depth of the water underneath. We also came upon one gentleman (who was with friends earlier in the day) sitting in the middle of a very swift area of the river. He was so drunk he literally could not stand, and every time he tried to get up, he’d fall back down. We asked him if he was OK and he stated that he wasn’t, but before we could offer him a hand, the current had taken us so far downstream that we couldn’t get back to him to help. We watched him stagger around a few times and he finally fell down and laid on his back and floated downstream some. Several other rafters offered him help as well.
We also came upon a fight out in the middle of the river between two very drunk men and about 50 onlookers who caused a blockade in the river to where people couldn’t even pass by. I also failed to mention the woman sitting in the middle of the river vomiting her guts out while we attempting to swim.
I feel it is time for the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission to do something about the alcohol use on the river. I had always felt that floating the river would be an excellent family adventure, but based upon what I witnessed on this trip, there is no way I would subject my daughter to this behavior. It is possible for people to have a good time without drinking?
People also need to examine the risks of getting out on the river and getting intoxicated. I’m sure many deaths and many serious, permanent injuries have occurred on the Illinois River due to alcohol use. I also think the canoe dealers need to be a little more discerning when it comes to letting people rent from them who are already drunk.
I know this letter is not the most popular consensus, but alcohol use on the river is causing it to lose its appeal. Why can’t people understand you can have a good time without getting drunk?