Better River Conditions for Memorial Day Weekend - KTUL.com - Tulsa, Oklahoma - News, Weather & Sports

Better River Conditions for Memorial Day Weekend

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Campgrounds along the Illinois River, like Diamondhead Resort in Tahlequah, pack out around this time, every year for Memorial Day weekend, but this year may be different.

If weather permits, campers will fill Diamondhead Resort in Tahlequah as the weekend begins, to kick off summer.

But, Ed Fite with the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission is warning against swimming, tubing, or canoeing this weekend.

"The closer you are to Tahlequah, the higher the levels are right now," said Fite.

Thanks to the heavy rainfall of the past week, Fite says river levels are high and water is moving twice as fast as usual, creating a danger for anyone swimming into it.

"It's going to be relentless. It's not going to let up. And it's going to be powerful and it's going to cause them some problems," Fite said, warning would-be swimmers.

With four near-drownings on the Illinois river, this year, Fite says it is never worth the risk.

"The downside of the holiday weekend for my team and myself is that if someone loses their life, then having to respond to that, recover, and the impact that has on their family and friends and the folks that are floating in the river," Fite added.

He says river levels are slowly dropping, but will still be higher than usual by the time campgrounds fill up, this weekend.

The Scenic Rivers Commission said fallen trees and debris, along with fast-moving currents are the main concerns. They encourage everyone to use extreme caution until river conditions get back to normal.

Update: According to Fite, the Illinois River is open to floaters, Saturday, however inexperienced people should be sure to be with strong swimmers. Should rain levels not increase, the river will be open to all floaters, rafters and kayaks on Sunday.

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