It’s beginning to feel a lot like summer out there, and with the long weekend quickly approaching many may be tempted to tube the Cowichan River, but officials and locals are warning against it.
Despite the recent heat wave, the river still remains way too cold, and too high to make this an enjoyable or more importantly a safe activity this early on. Community member Beca McEwan shared her concerns on the Cowichan Lake Communities Bulletin Board Facebook page after witnessing several anxious tubers run into some trouble over the previous weekend.
“I was up camping on Cowichan Lake this past weekend and my pals and I floated the river from Duck Pond to Little Beach. We took out 20 minutes before Little Beach as we were witness to several rafts flipping on a fallen tree that was in the water,” wrote McEwan on Facebook. “One of the people had an infant with them which fell into the water and needed resuscitation. While calling for help we witnessed five more groups of people hit the same tree, as the river is high right now, narrow at that point, and very pushy. Naturally, I’m concerned about the upcoming weekend and the safety issues this common float presents while the river is so high.”
A woman who was tubing alone also flipped on the tree, and while witnesses did not see her come up where she capsized her tube, attending firefighters confirmed she had emerged further up the river and was doing fine. Jeff Lewis with Ladysmith Search and Rescue posted an update on the Lake Cowichan River Tubing Facebook page warning community members of the dangers of diving into this fun activity too early.
“We’ve again paddled the full length of the Cowichan River, and many of the wood hazards are worse than last year, and there are also significant new hazards,” wrote Lewis. “Once again the cleanest stretch of river is from the lake to Little Beach. All the other sections have major wood hazards, that will only get worse as the river drops, and the current is forced to narrow and flow more into the wood hazards.”
This is not the first instance this month that has left anxious tubers finding themselves in hot water in the Cowichan River. On Tuesday, May 2, Lake Cowichan RCMP responded to a report of a tuber in the river without a lifejacket, yelling for help. Officers attended, and located a 19 year-old man from Vancouver, along with seven others stranded on the side of the river, and on Saturday, May 13 RCMP responded to a report of a capsized vessel with five adults and a child involved.
Both incidents are unrelated, and everyone was located safe, said Const. David Prak, spokesperson for the Lake Cowichan RCMP.
This is a good reminder for everyone, that the river is not safe to be tubing or swimming in at this time of year.
In attendance for both calls was the Lake Cowichan Fire Department.
The river right now is cool due to the snow melt,” said fire chief Doug Knott. “Water levels are still high and flowing fast, which can push you into down trees, popping your tube, or worse, pulling you under.
That’s why, despite the recent hot spell, those looking to ride the river waves will have to cool their jets for a few more weeks to a month. Aaron Frisby, owner of popular tube rental business The Tube Shack, said that while it is primarily dependent on the weather and water levels in the river, their official open date will be June 18.
“Stay off the river until the river levels come down and the water heats up,” said Frisby. “At the start of every season we do a sweep for hazards. This process won’t take place until the second week of June. There are so many concerns, new hazards to get caught on, hypothermia from the temperature of the river and just being able to safely exist on the river. With the river flows being so high, there is no beach to get out at.”
B.C. Emergency Health Services public information officer, and paramedic Brian Twaites reminded the public to always wear a personal flotation device when on the water, and to never mix drugs and alcohol with water related activities, including tubing and boating. For more safety tips visit Safe Summer on the Water.
With a warm long weekend ahead, Town of Lake Cowichan CAO Joseph Fernandez leaves community members with some wise words to keep them out of hot water in the Cowichan River.
“It’s that time of the year again when residents and visitors alike can get to enjoy the pristine and beautiful Cowichan Lake area with activities including boating, fishing, and tubing. However, these activities must be enjoyed in moderation and with a good deal of caution given the current heat conditions and fast flowing waterways.”