Illinois River Flooding Washes Out Holiday Weekend Plans

Thursday, May 26th 2011, 6:30 pm
By: News On 6

Lacie Lowry, News On 6

TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma -- Flooding along the Illinois River is washing out some Memorial Day Weekend plans. Families and groups are going to have to decide soon whether to take that float trip or not.

The Illinois River in Tahlequah is flooding and phone calls are flooding the War Eagle Resort. Average level for the river is four feet.

"It crested at Tahlequah yesterday morning at 20 feet and now it's dropping really slow. It's not falling nearly as quickly as we thought it would," Ed Fite, with the Oklahoma Scenic River Commission, said.

View the forecasted river levels

The river is just over 11 feet now, forcing some restrictions this holiday weekend. Only rafts are allowed, No canoes, kayaks or tubes, and children under the age of 10 are not allowed to float on Saturday.

And besides the amount of water, the speed the river is flowing is more than 19 times its average rate right now.

"When you double the speed of water, you quadruple its power, so the magnitude of the power in the river right now has gone up considerably," Fite said.

LD Stephens with War Eagle Resort says they've had some cancellations on float trips.

"Ninety percent of the people are still going to come," Stephens said.

Campgrounds are the other concern. The water may clear out soon, but that doesn't mean it'll be open.

"They look like they're dry, but they're not," Stephens said. "There's a little silt in there and if you get on it, you'll get stuck. So most of the campgrounds will be closed. We hope we can open them on Sunday."

War Eagle has already refunded more than $4,000 to campers because they can't open the campgrounds. That number could rise to $9,000 by the time the weekend is over.

"You lose it, you don't make it up. Most of the float places are booked heavy already for the summer, so there's not much room to make it up," Stephens said.

Float businesses will have to make the call on Sunday whether to start allowing kids under the age of 10 to float the Illinois River.

To check on the most "up-to-date" river conditions, visit the OSRC website and click on the "48 Hour Recreation Forecast" icon.