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DNR warns kayakers, canoeists about high, fast waters

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River rescue
A Stearns County Sheriff's Deputy and a St. Cloud firefighter help Anita Hennngsgaard of St. Cloud, Minn., reach shore Monday afternoon, June 23, 2014, after her kayak overturned leaving her stranded on a downed tree in the Mississippi River near the Sauk Rapids Bridge.
Kimm Anderson/St. Cloud Times via AP

The state Department of National Resources is advising paddlers to stay off rivers, which are mostly higher and faster than normal. But outfitters say some rivers are safe enough for even occasional kayakers and canoeists.

  Kara Owens, a boat and water safety specialist with the DNR, urges caution.

  "Think twice before heading out on the water," she said. "The water is high and  that water is moving very fast. And with the fast water and high water, there's more debris."

  Hitting debris can overturn a kayak or canoe, Owens warns.

  "You might think you're an experienced canoer or kayaker,"  she said. "But you could still run into trouble or a dangerous situation."

  The Cannon River is too high for paddlers, said William Lacefield, one the owners of Cannon Falls Canoe & Bike Rental. He says watercraft don't have enough room to get under a sewer pipe that crosses the river.

  "The river is sitting at nine feet now," he said Thursday afternoon. "If if drops another foot, I can run the rafts out. If it drops two more feet, I can run the canoes and kayaks out."

  He says inexperienced boaters could also have trouble until the river drops and slows down.

  "A little mistake could turn out badly," he said.

  The Blue Earth River  is a tad too high, too, said Alyssa Nelson, general manager of Bent River Outfitter in Mankato.  

  She's just renting canoes and kayaks to folks sticking to nearby lakes, while hoping the river drops to eight feet or less by this weekend.

  "We are closed for business on the rivers," she said. "It's not an enjoyable experience when the river is this high. You kind of just cruise along. You can't stop anywhere. And sometimes the most enjoyable experience is to get out of your boat and look at the waterfalls and enjoy nature."

  A trip on the Blue Earth typically takes 3 to 4 hours, she said. But it might take just an hour at the rate the river has been flowing.

  Root River Outfitters in Lanesboro is putting boaters back on that river, which is flowing faster than usual but dropping.

  "It is still high," said employee Nathan Arnold. "We are putting people who are strong enough and able (out on the river). With small children, it's up to the parents, of course. We are putting out some tubers. They got done in two hours instead of three."

  Some outfitters on the St. Croix say that river presents no serious problems for paddlers.

  "We are not flooding in Taylor's Falls, and it is as safe as any river can be to go canoeing and kayaking," said Amy Frischmon, vice president of Taylor's Falls Canoe and Kayak Rental.

  A competitor on the Wisconsin side of the river concurred.

  "There's a dam in St. Croix Falls," said Eric Flinn, owner of Eric's Canoe and Kayak Rental. "They've been letting water the water out from the dam and lowering the level north of the dam. That part of the river is perfect.  South of the dam, the water is still a little high. But it's been going down for the last three or four days. We really have no issues with high water right now."

  If you get down to Stillwater, Flynn says the river is still high and flooded. But he says St.  Croix Falls probably reached its peak water level three or four days ago.