High, fast Thornapple River too dangerous for fun

HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — At the launch point for the U-Rent-Em Canoe Livery in Hastings Monday, it was unusually quiet for mid-June. Row after row of red canoes were stuck on land.

The livery is closed due to dangerous conditions on the Thornapple River.

Flooded U-Rent-Em Canoe Livery
The flooded U-Rent-Em Canoe Livery in Hastings. (June 24, 2019)

The water is moving fast and the riverbanks are overflowing. The landing for the livery looks more like a lake. 

“I’ve never seen the river this fast and high this time of year and for such a long period of time,” livery owner Julie Hawthorne-Fox told 24 Hour News 8. 

The conditions have prompted a warning from the Barry County Sheriff’s Office: Stay off the river. Its marine unit had to rescue multiple people Sunday in the dangerous currents. There was a water rescue on the Thornapple in Kent County Friday, as well. 

Avoid all water activities on the Thornapple RiverBarry County Sheriff’s Office Marine division personnel are advising…

Posted by Barry County Sheriff's Department on Sunday, June 23, 2019

The canoe livery doesn’t let people on the river once it’s moving faster than 600 cubic feet per second. On Monday, it was moving nearly four times as fast as that.

“There’s no amount of money that we could earn that would even tempt us to float when it’s even remotely close to this,” Hawthorne-Fox said. 

At this point in the summer, the livery is normally about a third of the way into its season. This year, “we’ve floated one day,” Hawthorne-Fox said.  

She said they’ve lost tens of thousands of dollars as a result. 

The heavy rain and high waters haven’t impacted only canoeing and tubing. At the Superette party store, which sits right on the river, business has also slowed down as the water has sped up.

“A good portion of our business is people off the river,” employee Amanda Pullen explained. 

The hope now is simple: some sunshine and dry days. Conditions on the river can change as fast as the water moves.

“If we could just go a stretch, four, five days maybe at the most, without rain, we’ll be good to go,” Hawthorne-Fox said. 

“Once the canoe place starts getting busier, we’ll pick right back up. That’s the hope,” Pullen said. 

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