It may look like fun, but the fast river is dangerous

The Grand River in Grand Rapids on April 7, 2017.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The return of warm weather comes even as rivers across West Michigan are at near flood stage.

This may lead some to think that now may be a great time to try out that kayak you got for Christmas, but one of the people responsible for rescuing people out of the water has this advice.

“Actually, the first advice I’d give them is not to do it,” said Grand Rapids Fire Department Lt. Travis Gurd.

The river is over 14 feet, that’s only four feet below flood level and that means it’s moving fast. The river is also just above freezing with temperatures in the 30s.

“The river is way too fast, the water is way too cold and the water is way too high at this time of the year,” he said.

Gurd works out of the Grand Rapids Fire Department’s Bridge Street Station which performs river rescues throughout the area.

The department does about 20 to 25 rescues depending on the year.

“It’s even dangerous for us to go into the water as rescuers,” Gurd said.

He says if someone goes in the water, the results can be disastrous.

“You’ll be in trouble instantaneously,” he said.

The sediments in the river are churned up making it hard to see how deep it is and too see rocks and tree branches in the water making it more likely that a boat could hit something. Even if someone is fishing in the water, the fast water can pull them under.

“If you want to get close, stay 20 to 30 feet away from the water’s edge,” Gurd said.

And warmer clothes become water logged, boots and waders fill up with water.

“The chances of someone surviving is not going to be very good, it probably going to be more of a body recovery than a rescue,” Gurd said.

He says those fishing should let people know where they are before they go out — and be equipped.

“Definitely a lifejacket and even a walking-stick that can help you feel around to where you’re going to be walking at,” he said.

He says the best advice for now, is to just stay out of the water until it goes down.

“If you have family, loved ones it’s more important to be going home than it would be to have a day of fun in the sun on the water.”