The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 2, 2013

Minnesota officials urging boaters to use caution

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — High water from the relentless rain this spring has Minnesota officials urging boaters to slow down and use caution as the Fourth of July holiday weekend approaches.

A no-wake zone is in effect on the St. Croix River from Taylors Falls, Minn., to Prescott, Wis., due to the heavy flows. And the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said a lot of debris is floating down the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers, adding another element of danger.

"People should always wear their lifejackets every time they step on a boat and especially during high water," said Kara Owens, DNR boating safety specialist. "High water levels mean a fast and strong moving current, which many boat operators are not used to. That can create dangerous situations."

Owens noted that debris often floats at or just below the surface, and that hitting a log at high speed could result in anything from damage to the boat to serious injuries.

Some of that debris is already piling up. A log jam on the Mississippi near Raspberry Island in downtown St. Paul has doubled in size since last Friday.

Officials have also warned canoeists and kayakers to stay off Minnehaha Creek in the Twin Cities, where flows are too dangerous for paddling and downed trees from recent storms add to the risk. Minnehaha Creek flows 22 miles from Lake Minnetonka, through the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes, to the Mississippi River.

"It's definitely 'user beware,'" said Minnehaha Creek Watershed District spokeswoman Telly Mamayek, adding that canoeists and kayakers should use extreme caution if they do venture out on the creek, or consider rescheduling their treks.

"People like to be on the creek . but people need to be mindful of the conditions," Mamayek said.

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