CLAYTON, N.C. (WNCN) — Warm sunny days along the Neuse River should be primetime for Neuse Adventure Canoe and Kayak Rentals in Clayton, but Owner-operator Johnny House said he’s had to cancel everything since last weekend due to unsafe water levels.
“A lot of people will call after we’ve had a big rain and want to go kayaking, and I’ll say, well I’m sorry I can’t put you on right now because the water levels have shot up on the Neuse because all the rain we’ve had,” House said. “A lot of people don’t realize that.”
The source of all that water is the Falls Dam. The Army Corps of Engineers is pumping out enough water to maintain the level at Falls Lake following last week’s rain.
House cuts off kayaking once the water volume is above 1,000 cubic feet per second, it’s been two to three times that this week.
House said those levels make it more likely to lose a kayak if you hit something like a tree limb.
“Believe it or not, a lot of people lose their kayaks when it’s high-water volume,” House said. “I’ve had people call me up they want to rent a kayak to find the kayak that they lost on high water, and I say no.”
House said the problem is people without experience can’t tell if it’s safe just by looking at the water. That’s why he recommends checking water levels online here before leaving the house.
The Chief Ranger at Falls Lake with the US Army Corps of Engineers said there were a lot of people tubing by Falls Dam over the holiday weekend, but in his opinion, it was not safe to do so because of the high volume of water that was being pumped at the time—2,500 cubic feet per second. He said tubers could get into trouble quickly with that kind of flow, particularly if they’re caught up in a log jam.
House said to avoid areas near dams and noted boaters and tubers shouldn’t come across any along the Neuse River between Falls Dam and the coast.
Sgt. Nathan Green with NC Wildlife Resources Commission has this recommendation if you’re at the bottom of a dam that flows over the top:
“If you do get caught in the downstream side of a low head dam, if you can kick away from it using your feet, again to push yourself downstream, you can hopefully get out of that current.”
Green has tips for what to do if your boat flips over as well.
“The best thing to do is number one try to stay with that vessel, and also, if moving down with a river with currents, is to float on the upstream side of that craft,” Green said. “That way, it keeps you from getting crushed with that vessel being above you there. “
Another thing Green recommends is floating on your back with your arms and legs extended with your feet downstream, so if you hit something you’ll hit it with your feet and not your head.
He adds to always wear a life vest and never go out on the river alone.