“One of the biggest problems is people get in the river without a plan,” he said. “Whenever we’ve had to rescue people it was typically because they weren’t listening to directions.”
And folks who set out on the river in inner tubes or on floats seem to regularly underestimate how long trips downstream will actually take, Bozorth said, explaining a tube travels about 1 mph, compared to a canoe, which moves at twice that speed.
“People get in the river, doing their own thing, and they think it’s not that far from one point to the other, but it’s hours and hours,” he said.
When traveling a river, floaters must know about the dams along their route and prepare to get out of the water well before the dam — a strategy known as portaging — in order to walk around a dam’s hazardous currents.
High water and poor light can obscure signage that alerts people to portage areas before dams, and if boaters or floaters are drinking, they may be distracted and miss the critical signs, Bozorth said.
And if a group of floaters sees a dam fast approaching, they must be prepared to get out of the water quickly. But a popular trend of creating raft and tube “flotillas” by connecting floatation devices with rope, may impede such hasty exits, Bozorth said.
“When groups of people on rafts and tubes tie together, it reduces their maneuverability,” Bozorth said. “And that makes it hard to get out.”