Red oak ‘strainer’ creates need for several rescues on Current River
Doniphan – During the busy Memorial Day weekend, the Missouri State Highway Patrol Water Division conducted approximately 20 water rescues on the Current River, including a near drowning, when river-goers got caught in the limbs and root system of a particularly large scarlet oak that had recently fallen into the river, according to a news release about the rescues from Mark Train National Forest spokesman Cody Norris.
Sometimes called “strainers,” limbs and root wads in reverse create obstacles that can become life-threatening hazards for anyone caught in them. The Current River channel was changed by recent flooding, and the new flow sent floaters and boaters directly into the downed tree, Norris said. MSHP Cpl. Shayne Talburt and Cpl. J. T. Wilson conducted the rescues during Memorial Day weekend, and they estimate that about 20 more people were rescued by “citizen boaters.” Talburt reached out to Matt Dillon, the new district ranger for MTNF’s Eleven Point Ranger District, asking for help in removing the hazardous strainer from the Current.
Dillon, zone realty specialist Keith Holland and two experienced tree-fallers from the ranger district, Daniel Oldham and Kyle Young, utilized two boats and a truck to access the site, where the fallers worked quickly and safely to remove the limbs from the river flow, Norris said.
Dillon said the men “did phenomenal work and quickly solved the problem” while law enforcement officer Toby Barton “directed boat traffic from the water while the tree-fallers did the work.”
Dillon noted that the Current River strainer was removed because it was hard for floaters to avoid. But he reminded river-goers that “the river is part of nature – not a controlled environment – and hazards exist.”
The news release offered these safety tips for those heading to the river:
• Wear a personal flotation device (PFD). If you don’t wear it, it won’t work.
• Be aware of current river conditions. Rivers in the Ozarks can rise rapidly. Since the flood, many area streams have new gravel bars, log jams, strainers and other obstacles that present potential safety hazards to floaters. Ask area outfitters or those who float frequently about hazards to be aware of – and avoid.
• Be weather aware. Check the weather forecast before launching, especially if you are overnighting on a river.
• Be cautious of high water. Be aware of the risks you are taking when launching in high water or flood stage. Whatever the conditions, be sure your paddling and swift-water rescue skills are up to the challenge and that you are properly geared.
• Be extra careful with children. Remember, the law requires children under age 12 to wear a PFD when floating. No one but you can decide whether to take your children on a float, as only you know your paddling skill level and your ability to handle whatever river conditions might occur, including dealing with obstacles. Remember that children can be unpredictable in movements or behaviors.
• Do not rely on cell phones on the rivers. This is rugged, remote country where cell service is very limited, especially down in river corridors.
• Prepare carefully for overnight canoeing trips. Even if the weather is predicted to be sunny and fair, it’s wise to set up your campsite on high ground with an escape route at your back. You never know when weather occurring upstream will affect the water downstream. Don’t leave your boat and gear down by the river. Leave them above your tent so that, if the river comes up, your transportation doesn’t float away. If you see a clear river beginning to cloud or debris such as leaves and limbs coming through, most likely the river is coming up and you should seek high ground immediately.
Visit the americancanoe.org for more safety tips.