DES MOINES — Hot weather and a three day weekend is a recipe for busy rivers and lakes and Labor Day weekend 2013 is expected to be no different.
But this year, low water in most interior rivers will require paddlers and tubers on all but the largest streams to do some walking as water levels are nearly identical as during last year’s drought.
Todd Robertson, with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Water Trails program, said paddlers and tubers should check stream flows before heading out to avoid trouble while on the water.
“If they are not going locally, they should either check the USGS site (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ia/nwis/rt) for stream flows or call the county conservation board where they’re planning to float,” Robertson said. “We don’t want people to get in to trouble because the water can’t support a canoe, kayak or tube and they have to walk, turning a six hour trip in to a 10 to 12 hour trip.”
Robertson expects to see more paddlers concentrating on lakes, the larger border rivers and in stream impoundments.
“It’s going to be busy because it’s going to be hot and it’s a holiday weekend,” he said. “Unfortunately when it’s hot, paddlers tend to avoid wearing lifejackets, which is a mistake. Lifejackets don’t work if you don’t wear them.”
He said paddlers shouldn’t have a false sense of safety just because the rivers are low.
“Hazards can be around the next bend and if they’re drinking alcohol, the combination of heat and sun can impair their decision making and motor skills, putting them at unnecessary risk,” Robertson said. “Instead, I would recommend drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated and save the celebrating for when you get home.”
The additional people on the rivers and lakes mean everyone needs to have patience and be courteous to one another, he advised.
“Pick up after yourself, watch your behavior and language and respect private property,” Robertson said. “These resources are for everyone to enjoy.”
The Iowa DNR will be increasing its law enforcement presence on certain interior rivers as part of its “Keep it Clean, Keep it Fun for Everyone,” campaign to remind river users that their behavior affects other people, including neighboring landowners.
“We need all of our users to respect the resource and take out what they bring in,” Robertson said. “Respect the private property rights of landowners living along the river, including the sandbars and riverbanks. Nearly all of Iowa’s river bottoms are privately owned.”