Going on the river? … Watch levels, know your skill, wear a life jacket

Shenandoah river

By Randy Arrington

SHENANDOAH — At a Shenandoah Council meeting earlier this month, Police Chief Paul Davis reported that his department had been called out four times in the past 30 days to help someone in trouble on the south fork of the Shenandoah River.

Although none of the four calls resulted in any serious injuries, it provided an opportunity for Chief Davis to issue a warning to river goers.

“My suggestion is, No. 1, wear a life jacket,” Chief Paul Davis said recently. “People carry them and are not wearing them.”

The most recent call for help on the river came on June 9, when two teenagers were floating on inner tubes. When the family noticed they were missing, they feared they had gone downriver unintentionally or something worse had happened. It turned out the teenagers were only a few hundred yards from where they were last seen, and all was fine.

However, a call that came in two weeks earlier was a little more serious.

On May 26, kayakers hit the river when the water was elevated, and the current proved to be too much for their abilities, according to Chief Davis. The kayaks flipped over and their occupants had to swim to shore further downstream. The Shenandoah Fire Department assisted the police department in getting the kayakers to safety.

Two other instances in the last month also involved high water on the river and inexperienced kayakers. However, neither incident resulted in any serious issues. One call for help was made when bystanders noticed an unmanned kayak floating along the river with no one in site.

“Make sure someone knows where you are,” Chief Davis cautioned. “That’s the problem we face sometimes is we don’t know where to start looking.”

The recent situation was quickly resolved, but the chief’s advice applies to anyone traveling on the river or hiking in the surrounding national forest or national park.

But the chief especially wants river goers to honestly asses current conditions and their own abilities before hitting the water.

“If you are not experienced, and the water appears to be too much for your ability, wait for the water to recede,” Chief Davis said.

The Shenandoah Police Chief also offered his appreciation for the help that the Shenandoah Volunteer Fire Department provided in recent search and rescues.

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