A cautionary tubing tale [UPDATED]Published 10:40am Friday, July 1, 2011 Updated 11:13am Friday, July 1, 2011
Tubing down the Otter Tail River is a cherished pastime for many, but with the water rushing downstream quick and high, even veteran tubers should be careful.
It’s a lesson Christine Brinkman learned firsthand Tuesday, when she, her 10-year-old twins and their 13-year-old friend went to one of the river’s public accesses on State Highway 210.
“At first it was fine,” she said. “The water was fast, up higher than you’d think.”
But as she and the kids started heading down the river, things got a little rougher.
“We knew it was going to be fast, but there were a lot more trees down than we had banked on,” she remarked. The water rushing around the fallen trees made it harder to maneuver away, especially because all of them were on inflatable mattresses instead of inner tubes.
One of Brinkman’s children ended up getting caught in one of the trees, popping his raft. Another child popped his raft near a cement bridge, and as Brinkman tried to help, one of the other children was separated from the group as the water rushed on.
“Where the waters were in rapids, those were the scary parts,” she said.
The quartet eventually left the river near East Mount Faith Avenue. Even after all of the snags, they had fun, but Brinkman said she’ll be better prepared next time, making sure to pack better tubing equipment and increasing the parent/child ratio.
A lot more water is flowing through the river right now than normal, according to Jeff Olson, plant manager for Otter Tail Power’s Hoot Lake Plant. He explained that water volume in the river is measured by cubic feet per second (cfs) flowing through a given point on the river.
Typically, he explained, the river is rushing at 700 to 800 cfs at this time. A few weeks ago, however, it was as high as 1,350, meaning that the water was flowing much higher and faster than normal.
“It’s actually been tapering off in the last (few) weeks,” Olson said. “(On Thursday) we are down just to about 1050.”
Still, the water can be treacherous, especially with all of the trees down.
“We’ve even had some canoers and tubers who have called about conditions,” Olson said. “We always lean on the (safe) side … and urge people to use utmost caution.”
The sheriff’s office has jurisdiction over the river, as it is a public waterway, but unless an governmental agency rules that the waters are off limits, tubers and canoers are allowed to navigate at their own risk. Right now, however, it may be a little riskier than usual.