Kayakers get caught in Cuyahoga River due to rising water levels

A woman holds onto a branch in the Cuyahoga River after falling out of her kayak on June 22, 2019. 

Marissa Moore

Two kayakers were rescued from the Cuyahoga River in Kent on Sunday after they were stranded due to high water levels. 

Bill Myers, fire captain at the Kent Fire Department, said it was one of five rescues that took place on June 23.

Myers said most of those rescued were kayakers on the Cuyahoga River in the area of the West Main Street bridge. 

“There is an area we call the ‘chute’ and it’s where the water is flowing at its fastest,” Myers said. “These were probably inexperienced kayakers and they’re not as knowledgeable, and maybe experienced, with fast-running water.”

In the past week and a half, the Kent Fire Department rescued 20 people from the river. 

“We’ve had such a rainy spring, and … we continue to get more rain,” Myers said. “The ground is already saturated; the water really has not too many places to go.” The soaked earth, unable to absorb any more, leads to the rising water levels of rivers and lakes. This can submerge land the water would usually flow around.

In the “chute” near West Main Street bridge, there is a small island where water “gradually flows to the right and then to the left.” Myers said the water is currently so high it is going over this island; submerging trees, shrubs, and “all kinds of entanglement hazards.”

When kayakers get in the river, they “put in” their kayaks upstream, “further north” of a city, and travel south.

“The water at the point is very calm. This has the kayakers saying ‘it’s a little high but it doesn’t look bad,’ and ‘we should be fine,’” Myers said.

The kayakers may not be aware of hazards downriver due to the rainy season. The Kent Fire Department recommends training on the operation of a kayak before going out on the water.

“The river offers a lot of great sport and fun but when it’s up high, if you’re not experienced and not very knowledgeable, we’re asking that you not get onto the water,” Myers said. “Always wear a PFD (personal flotation device) when you’re getting on the river and experiencing what the river has to offer.”

Marissa Moore is correspondent. Contact her at [email protected]