The Bartlett family casts off from Fort Normandeau on Monday afternoon for a river ride to beat the heat.

The Bartlett family casts off from Fort Normandeau on Monday afternoon for a river ride to beat the heat.

Floaters urged to exercise caution on the river

A scorcher of a Monday called for a jump in the river for the Bartlett family.

A scorcher of a Monday called for a jump in the river for the Bartlett family.

Or at least a long, leisurely float down river, said mom Tanis.

Tanis, her husband, Brian, their three daughters and family friend Chloe Hollings, all piled onto a giant inflatable tube and dinghy at Fort Normandeau for a drift down to the 67th Street bridge.

It’s a popular summer pastime for Central Albertans who take to the Red Deer River at various spots, such as the Penhold Bridge, with all kinds of rafts and inflatables — some durable and some that shouldn’t be used outside a pool.

“It’s time to veg out, spend time with each other and just soak up the sun,” said Tanis. “I really like how you see Red Deer from a different perspective, too. It’s beautiful.”

Daughter Nisa, 18, agreed, pointing out the various species of birds and wildlife you can see from the river. She said going for a float feels like a vacation.

It’s only the second time the Bartletts, who live in Red Deer, have gone floating. Two summers ago, at the end of August when the water level was extremely low, they also went for a ride in a big inner tube.

“That time it took us three hours from here down to 67th,” said Tanis.

Brain said with a faster flow at this time of the year, he expected it to take even less time.

“We learned from that last time. … We’d put our phones and keys in what we thought was a waterproof pouch but wasn’t. And we ended up with holes in our tube when we were leaving, bringing it up onto shore.”

They also make sure to carry plenty of water to stay hydrated and extra sunscreen as it “heats up quickly with the water’s reflection out there,” said Brian.

While floating downstream may see like a harmless activity to beat the heat, Red Deer County Patrol Senior Patrol Officer Bob Marsh said people need to remember to exercise caution.

“We still have a high flow, and debris and murkiness of the water itself makes it pretty unsafe right now,” he said, noting the cloudiness is expected to clear in about two weeks or so.

A number of incidents happened last summer involving stranded floaters but nothing has been reported yet this season, said Marsh.

There are always a problems with floaters drinking alcohol, which is illegal, he added.

“People have to understand that little boats and inner tubes, they’re still considered pleasure craft by Transport Canada so they have to have a life-jacket for every rider and if they don’t wear them when floating, then they have to have a bailer, whistle, rope, stuff like that.”

The fine for not wearing a life-jacket starts at $250.

The six patrol officers who make the rounds at least once a week along the river say it’s hard to get floaters to take the risks seriously.

“A mom, her grandmother and her 15-month old son were all just sitting in this flotation device. If he falls in, how would they fix that? I escorted them back to where they had launched at Fort Normandeau and they weren’t too happy,” said Marsh. “The water may be not that deep but there are sinkholes that are 10 to 12 feet deep and you can be in trouble real quick.”

Marsh said with the river still flowing at a steady rate, he wasn’t sure how long it would take floaters to reach the popular landing at Three Mile Bend on Monday but said it was at least four hours or up to half a day to get there from Fort Normandeau.

rfrancoeur@bprda.wpengine.com

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