Search and Rescue officials urge care for those tubing on Cowichan River

Tubers seen on the Cowichan River. (Photo credit: Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News)

With the Canada Day long weekend fast approaching, rescue crews are warning those who are thinking of going tubing in the Cowichan River.

The Cowichan River is now running faster and two and a half times higher than it did this time a year ago, and it comes on the heels of five years of drought.

Joe Saysell, who lives near the Cowichan River, says he cannot believe how high and fast the river has become.

“Almost mind-boggling. I couldn’t believe how much it rained all the time, it just kept raining. This is an ideal year for fry,” he said, adding. “We need every fish we can get because the numbers are so down.”

On top of the high water, delicate salmon fry are also finding new habitat in the many trees downed by last fall’s record floods.

Officials say trees have fallen on most stretches of the river and that has Cowichan Search and Rescue warning tubers heading out on the water to be aware of the danger.

“In November, we had a lot of rain and floods that brought a lot of wood down,” said Trevor Paterson of the Cowichan Search and Rescue’s swift water rescue team. “So, almost every section of the Cowichan River has logs that are blocking part or all of the river, which is very dangerous. If you get caught up in a log jam there’s real potential for death.”

The warning comes after crews were called out to the river to rescue a family of five that got caught up in some fallen trees.

“Four adults and a young child were up the river and they hit some logs and we were able to get them out,” said Paterson.

Tubers are urged to stick to the stretch of river between Lake Cowichan and Little Beach, officials say.

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