Heavy rains this Summer left much of the Cuyahoga River swollen and many surrounding communities flooded.
At least fifteen people were rescued in Kent alone. This led the local fire department to issue a warning to potential kayakers against paddling in high waters.
John Kobak is with the Keelhaulers Canoe Club, an organization that teaches people how to paddle on the various sections of the Cuyahoga.
Kobak said the portion of the river that goes through Kent is more rapid than the scenic “Upper” part of the river, but when heavy rains increase the water level that increases the speed too.
“At that level, the heritage portion that runs through Kent very closely resembles whitewater rapids,” Kobak said. Even experienced Kayakers need to train to paddle those dangerous parts of the river.
The speed isn’t the only danger either. Kobak said fallen trees and other debris called ‘strainers’ present an unseen danger to novice paddlers.
“They need to get in there and get any of these trees out of the way,” Kobak said, “Because it could come down to normal flow and somebody’s going to come down with their inner tube and they’re going to get stuck in that tree, and like I said the likelihood of drowning is fairly high.”
Kobak also warned amateurs to avoid paddling in the stretch below Route 8 in Cuyahoga Falls. That part extends to the Gorge Dam and Kobak said inexperienced paddlers might not notice the dam before its too late to adjust course.
Paddlers across Northeast Ohio are excited for the Gorge Dam’s removal because it will restore the ‘Great Falls’ that were disrupted when the dam was built. The dam is slated to come down in 2023.