The Grand River Dam Authority Police said even with the increased mount of people on the river, they are seeing less deaths and rescues this year than in years past on the water. There has only been one death on the Illinois River this year.
Coronavirus travel restrictions have brought an abundance of people to the Illinois River to float in rafts and tubes or just to swim. GRDA Police Lt. Jeremy Cantrell said they were worried that the influx of people would bring more deaths.
“The deaths have gone down from last year, and this year there were a lot of rescues, but they have dropped,” Cantrell said.
Cantrell said they have a steady number of rescue calls still, but the lack of rain during the hot summer months has helped people stay above water. In some parts of the river, people even have to drag their rafts and tubes across shallow areas.
“Earlier in the year there were a lot of water rescues, but since then the water has gone down; we’ve taken this time to pull the dangers out like cutting the trees and removing them, so the rescue the number of rescues has dropped significantly,” Cantrell said.
Those fallen trees are a huge part of how people get into a bad situation so quickly.
“When the trees fall in the river, the current pushes against the trees,” Cantrell said. “So when people get into those dangerous areas, they can’t get back out because of the current holding them down.”
There has only been one death on the Illinois River so far this year, but Cantrell said people should never let their guard down even during low water levels.
“If you’re not a strong swimmer or floater, don’t go when the water is like that or be with someone experienced. Also, wear life jackets and don’t tie your rafts together because if you get caught then it just pulls more people in,” Cantrell said.
If you plan on spending the day floating, you can check the GRDA river report before heading out so you know what you’re getting into before it’s too late.