ST. PAUL (AP) -- Earlier this week, two canoes overturned on the Minnesota River near Mankato, and the current briefly pulled one passengers underwater. Last weekend, seven people nearly drowned when two canoes capsized in separate incidents on the Cannon River in southeastern Minnesota.
None of those accidents resulted in death, but they have Tim Smalley nervous about this weekend, the first of the summer and one that typically sends antsy Minnesotans onto the state's many lakes and streams.
Unusually heavy spring rains have created hazardous conditions, with high water and strong currents, said Smalley, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' boating safety specialist.
"Anybody who's planning on going canoeing should think twice about going out at all this weekend," Smalley said. "It's not worth risking your life for. Wait a week or two for (water levels) to subside. It should if we don't have a bunch more rain."
Smalley said he and his colleagues can't remember a spring that had such fluctuating water levels. Earlier this year, for example, a slow-no-wake speed limit was imposed on the Lower St. Croix River for 39 days, lifted, and then reinstated Wednesday, when the river rose 8 feet above normal at Stillwater.
Minnesota's river levels are more like those of early spring than early summer, and can catch people off guard, he said.
"In the spring, people are better prepared, they have better flotation gear, and now, they think it's summer and all is well," Smalley said. "And it's not."
Smalley said motorboater should exercise caution, too. Strong currents, he said, can sweep a boat over a dam or under a barge if the motor quits. In such a situation, he said, an auxiliary motor could get the boat to safety.
Boaters can find water-level readings for many popular rivers by logging onto the DNR's Web site -- www.dnr.state.mn.us -- clicking on "Trails and Waterways," then "Canoe and Boating Routes," and finally, "River Level Reports."
They also can call the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll-free at 1-888-646-6367.
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