CADILLAC — Experts in outdoor recreation safety are still urging caution on the waterways, even as spring waters have receded.
Lt. Joe Molnar, the new commander leading conservation officers from the Department of Natural Resources service center in Cadillac (where COs for several counties are based), told the Cadillac News high water is still a concern, and COs are still seeing higher water levels in some nearby waterways.
"Use safe practices," Molnar urged.
That means wearing a life jacket and also keeping an eye out for underwater hazards, like rocks and trees.
Of course, every waterway is different, and some have returned to normal after early summer's heavy rains.
That's the case on the Manistee River, according to Tom Skiver, a manager at Chippewa Landing in Manton, which rents canoes, tubes, karaks and rafts.
“It was definitely an issue in June or early July,‘ Skiver said. But there's so much water flowing through the Manistee River that water levels are back to average for this time of year. The river tends to return to normal quickly after rain.
"This time of year, it doesn't get high," agreed Rick Walsh, owner of Chippewa Landing. It takes more than a couple of rainstorms to raise the river. Instead, rainfall fills forest wetlands, Walsh explained.
Still, the livery encourages people to use a life jacket and to ride the river with experienced people.
"We love the tourists and rely on the tourists,‘ he said, but noted that sometimes people who are unfamiliar with the river or watersports end up calling for help.
Skiver also remarked on Lake Michigan, where drownings this summer have nearly doubled. While there hasn't been a rash of drownings on local rivers, conservation officer reports show officers from the region have been called to assist this summer when people run into trouble on "unseasonably cold and swift water," as describes one report from a rescue in Lake County on the Pere Marquette River in June.