High water dangerous for tubers, hikers

3:01 PM, Jul 2, 2013   |    comments
Tubing in Townsend
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The heavy rain we're expected to see this week is casting a shadow on what's normally a busy week for some East Tennessee businesses.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park issued a high water warning Monday, urging people to avoid water recreation this week because the river levels could rise quickly. That's bad news for tubing and water recreation businesses in Townsend, which count on a busy Fourth of July week to bring in a lot of customers.

"Cowboy Tubin" says high water creates unsafe conditions, and they close down anytime they think the water is too high.

"It's not safe. People get out there, they get injured, they flip out of their tubes, get skinned and scraped up, maybe hit their head on the rock. If you get knocked out you could drown and we just don't want you to have an unsafe time. We want you to get out there and have fun," said Carolan Rhea, manager at Cowboy Tubin'.

Cowboy Tubin' said they've been closed more times than they've been open over the past few weeks because of high water.

In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in June, rangers responded to several tubing accidents in Deep Creek in North Carolina and at the Little River near the Townsend Wye and Elkmont in Tennessee.

On Friday, June 29, a group of six tubers including four adults, a six-year old child, and a two-year old child, were rescued after they were stranded on the opposite side of the river. The Townsend Volunteer Fire Department's swift water rescue team led rescue efforts with park rangers to safely bring the group across the river, which was a foot above normal due to heavy rains.

In addition, rangers have also responded to several incidents where visitors attempted to cross swollen rivers and became stranded on boulders in the river channel or on the opposite bank. Visitors are cautioned that river levels can rise rapidly when thunderstorms strike the Smokies. Park officials say visitors should avoid crossing any rising river by waiting until the river has receded or taking another route.



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