Canoe rental businesses across the Ozarks warn against floating this weekend

Published: May. 6, 2022 at 9:32 PM CDT
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STONE COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) - It looks to be a beautiful weekend to be outdoors, but risky waters are flowing across the Ozarks. Several areas remain flooded.

Canoe rental businesses across the area say it could be a dangerous weekend for people to go floating. Hootentown Canoe Rental and Campground closed the bottom portion of its campground this weekend. The owners say the water levels are too high to safely rent boats out to the public.

The business said people can still rent life jackets for a refundable deposit if they still wish to go floating. But the owner and other water enthusiasts say it could be very risky for anyone to take to the waters this weekend.

The rapids along James River near Hootentown are now rushing past the shoreline. The shoreline used to be a campground. Campers say the flow of water built up in no time.

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

Those waters are a familiar sight to Amy and Joel Coursen. The couple has a camper and visits the area every weekend.

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

But right now the water engulfs a large portion of the campsite. Signs and poles now sit submerged. Avid kayakers like the Coursens say it is too dangerous for any floating.

”Even thrill seekers shouldn’t be out here,” Coursen said. ”There’s big trees under the water that could pop up at any time.”

Those types of underwater hazards make these water especially risky.

“And if you do happen to flip, there’s no standing,” Hootentown Canoe Rental and Campground owner Diana Newman said. “There’s no gravel bars. They’re all covered.”

Newman said the water is flowing at a tremendous rate right now, which is another serious danger.

”Like a seven mile float , Shelvin Rock normally takes three to four hours,” she described. “You’re looking at maybe thirty minutes, if that. That’s moving pretty fast.”

Threats on the water like those are why the Coursens say they do not mess around with these very high water levels. The couple does not plan to step anywhere near the water until it recedes.

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

The Coursens have a pretty simple message for anyone who plans to go on the water this weekend.

”I don’t suggest anyone should be 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 do go on the water, canoe businesses and water enthusiasts strongly encourage you to take and wear a life jacket this weekend.

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