Canoe rental companies across the Ozarks warn of floating this weekend

STONE COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) – It seems like a great weekend to be outdoors, but dicey waters are flowing through the Ozarks. Several areas remain flooded.

Canoe rental companies in the area say it could be a dangerous weekend for people to float around. Hootentown Canoe Rental and Campground closed the lower portion of its campground this weekend. Owners say water levels are too high to safely rent boats to the public.

The company said people can still rent life jackets for a refundable deposit if they still want to float. But the owner and other water enthusiasts say it could be very risky for anyone to get in the water this weekend.

The rapids along the James River near Hootentown now rush past the shore. The shore was once a campground. Campers say the water flow built up in no time.

”[It was] scary,” said campers Amy and Joel Coursen. “It was very scary.”

These waters are a familiar sight for Amy and Joel Coursen. The couple have a motorhome and visit the area every weekend.

“If we can be on the water, we’re on the water,” said Amy Coursen. “The highest we’ve floated is five feet.”

But right now the water is swallowing up a large part of the campsite. Signs and posts are now submerged. Avid kayakers like the Coursens say it’s too dangerous for any float.

“Even thrill seekers shouldn’t be here,” Coursen said. “There are large trees under the water that could spring up at any moment.”

These types of underwater hazards make these waters particularly risky.

“And if you turn around, there’s no position,” said Diana Newman, owner of Hootentown Canoe Rental and Campground. “There are no gravel bars. They are all covered.

Newman said the water is flowing at a breakneck pace right now, which is another serious hazard.

“Like a seven-mile float, Shelvin Rock normally takes three to four hours,” she described. “You’re considering maybe thirty minutes, if that.” It’s going pretty fast.

Such threats to the water explain why the Coursens say they don’t have fun with these very high water levels. The couple do not plan to approach the water until it recedes.

“It’s very scary,” Amy Coursen said. “I mean, he almost drowned a few years ago. So we respect him. We really do.

The Coursens have a pretty simple message for anyone planning to hit the water this weekend.

“I’m not suggesting anyone get out on the water at this point,” Coursen said. “With a life jacket, without a life jacket, boats, anything. Don’t be on the water.

If you’re going on the water, boating companies and water enthusiasts strongly encourage you to pack and wear a life jacket this weekend.

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