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High Water, High Risk: Conditions From Heavy Rains Are Recipe For Danger On Many MN Rivers

ANOKA COUNTY, Minn. (WCCO) -- More rain means more dangerous conditions on the water. The Rum River is one of 11 Minnesota rivers flooding right now. First responders just rescued a stuck kayaker last night.

Our Jeff Wagner found out why high water can be such a big risk.

A trip down the river in hopes of catching some fish was plan for a group of guys at Rum River Central Regional Park. Launching their canoes in an area that is usually a horse trail was likely not part of the plan, but with the area flooded and several roads flooded in the park as well, they didn't have much of a choice.

"It was completely submerged," said Josh Hawes of the actual boat launch area.

He walked there, past the "road closed" signs. He said the parking lot for the boat launch was under at least four feet of water.

"I couldn't even make it all the way back there without it going past my knees," he said.

The fast and overflowing Rum River is creating pools and ponds normally not seen at the park. Cmdr. Paul Lenzmeier with the Anoka County Sheriff's Office said the water looks inviting, especially for people hoping to explore areas they've haven't been able to before in a watercraft.

Swollen Rum River
(credit: CBS)

"But once they get past this little area and actually on the river, they encounter a completely different scenario," he said.

The river has quick currents that change speeds. There's debris from trees floating everywhere, often unseen. And the water is cold enough to cause hypothermia. Cmdr. Lenzmeier said the conditions from the heavy rains are a recipe for danger.

"What will typically happen is they'll overturn their kayak or their canoe and grab onto whatever they can," he said.

Officials are advising inexperienced people to stay off rivers right now. If you do venture out, they say to make sure you're not alone, and be prepared if you end up upended and in the water.

"Just gotta always make sure to wear your life jacket at times like this," Hawes said.

Cmdr. Lenzmeier hopes people to wear lifejackets no matter the conditions.

Some rivers are getting so high that no- or slow-wake orders have been issued, including the St. Croix River in Washington County.

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