Volume and speed of James river are biggest dangers

By Jola Szubielski - bio | email

Posted by Phil Riggan - email

A warning for those getting ready to head out this weekend. You cannot go into the James river without a permit.

The water level is above 10 feet because of all the rain we've been getting, and that can be extremely dangerous.

The signs say it all -- if the river level is 9 feet or more, you absolutely must have a permit to be out on the water.

The guides at Riverside Outfitters know the James river better than most, and say it isn't often the water levels get this high.

So when it does, they don't stop their outings, but say its far too dangerous for the inexperienced and those without permits.

"I think the biggest danger is just the volume and speed of the water," said Matt Perry of Riverside Outfitters.  "Its a less forgiving river. So if you were to make a mistake and ended up some place you didn't want to be, its harder to get out of."

Which is why when the river gets this high, its the unknown that even the professionals have to be leery of.

"There's a lot of structures, whether they be natural or manmade which are now submerged and they create flowpattern and different entrapment risks," said Perry.

The permit rule applies to everyone, sports enthusiasts to the casual sunbather. And even if you have the permit, now may not be the time to take the first swim of the season.

"Its not a substitute for having enough experience and common sense of when to be out there and when not to," said Perry.

And it may just be that common sense and one look at the rushing water, that makes the difference.

"Its way more intimidating at 10 1/2 feet and more obvious that you shouldn't be out there, than 7 feet, at that intermediate range it looks like it could be safe and fun, at 10 1/2 it just looks flat out more dangerous. I think there will be fewer people in the water," said Perry.

Currently the water level is 10 1/2 feet and falling at this point. Its expected to continue to drop through the weekend, but officials warn that doesn't mean it will be safe to use without a permit.

For an update on the water levels you can call 646-8228 and press option 4.

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