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KCSO: Reconsider going on the river this weekend

Kent County high water safety
Kent County high water safety
Kent County high water safety
Posted at 4:29 PM, Jul 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 19:01:26-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — If tubing or kayaking on a Kent County river was part of your plan this weekend, the sheriff's department is asking you to rethink that.

Rivers across Kent County like the Grand River are at least five times higher than normal, and more dangerous.

We went out on the river so you don't have to.

Before we could hit the Grand River, Kent County Sheriff's Deputy Jim Smith made sure we were suited up.

He says, "It's just really unpredictable."

RELATED: Water rescue underway in Plainfield Twp.

It's unpredictable as well as dangerous. We wore helmets in case of any low-hanging branches, or in our case, if we forgot to duck under bridges.

"Even good swimmers, who can handle water well in times of distress, things change," Smith tells us.

Among the dangers are strainers, debris that water can flow through but people can get stuck in.

"It's moving at a high rate," Smith explains. "And all the rivers..the Rouge, the Flat River, the Thornapple…even with the dams it's still at a high flow."

It's worse than normal. A late June rain means trouble on the river later in the year. Usually, this would be a spring problem, not a summer one.

"And with it being the Fourth of July weekend," Smith adds, "I'm guessing there will be some people who still want to go out."

Smith wants you to rethink that plan.

"Is the reward really worth the risk? That's the question," he says.

Because right now, Smith says it's not.

RELATED: Crews search for missing swimmer in Muskegon

In conditions like this, you never know what's lurking beneath the surface.

"The difference here with us is when the rivers are running at a higher flow, the objects change," Smith explains. "The obstructions change every single day."

They change daily, meaning in no time, it'll be safe again. But in the meantime, coming out here without a professional isn't the way to go.

"Next week at this time might be the perfect time to come out safely," Smith tells us.

The Kent County Sheriff's Office knows some people will still go out on the water against their advice. They say this weekend, it's not enough to just have a life jacket with you—you have to wear it for it to work.

RELATED: Kent County authorities offer safety tips ahead of July 4th weekend

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