DALEVILLE — Robbie Mixell, owner of Canoe Country, said water levels rose about 3 feet overnight on White River, which is why he was not open Thursday morning.
“People underestimate water and the force that it has,” he said. “It looks fun when it’s up and moving, but that current – water is probably one of the greatest forces there is.”
Mixell was glad to hear no one was injured after a man and his grandson got separated on the White River while kayaking in Anderson. He said he can’t recall anyone drowning from a boat accident in the last couple of decades, but accidents are always a possibility.
“It can happen in a split second,” he said.
According to the National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, water levels in Anderson rose from about 5 feet at 6 a.m. to 8 feet by 9:45 a.m. when the two kayakers became separated on Thursday.
Mixell said he monitors the river gauge in Muncie, but he also judges river safety by the river’s appearance.
“The gauge isn’t always accurate, because if you have heavy rains in New Castle area or south of Muncie, you can have branching water in from Buck Creek and other tributaries that can affect the water levels, not the city of Muncie where that river gauge is.”
He said the normal depth of the gauge is between 4.1 and 4.2 feet in Muncie.
“If it gets to 5.3 to 5.5 feet, that is where we stop putting people in,” Mixell said. “Some of that may depend on if it is going up, down, or what it’s doing. We use the gauge as a reference point, but we do a lot more by visual references.”
At normal water levels, Mixell said canoeing or kayaking on the White River between Daleville and Anderson can be a nice leisure trip. Swollen rivers, however, can be deadly.
“You are talking right now, when you hit the 8-foot level, if you aren’t paying attention, you really have to know what you are doing because you can get yourself in trouble really fast.”
Swimming in natural water environments such as rivers, lakes and streams can be more challenging than swimming pools because of unknown water obstructions and water depths, according to the American Red Cross.
The organization says to always enter unknown or shallow water feet first and watch for hazards such as dams, rocks and debris. Drop-offs can also unexpectedly change water depths.
Mixell said flooded rivers not only have deeper and faster moving water, there can be hidden dangers from trees and debris floating in the water.
“That’s really your biggest concern is getting swept up under something,” Mixell said. “You get a leg or something stuck under a tree branch and that water pushing you is going to hold you under.”
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