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High water levels hurting Minnesota boating businesses

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First it was the colder-than-average spring that was costing Minnesota's boating community money, now the wetter-than-average June is to blame.

Recent heavy rainfalls have pushed water levels on many Minnesota rivers and lakes to record-breaking heights, which has the state's Department of Natural Resources warning water sport enthusiasts to avoid lakes and rivers until the water recedes, which will likely be well after the 4th of July.

The Pioneer Press put it well saying, "Only in Minnesota can the boating season be ruined because of too much water."

Marina owners told the newspaper that fast-moving rivers have frightened away boaters. The Pioneer Press says the worst problem is the waterlogged timber that's been flowing downstream on rivers like the Mississippi – it's turned rivers into obstacle courses for boaters as they try to dodge the logs that get jammed up near marinas, docks and bridge piers.

No-wake rules on many Minnesota lakes have taken the fun out of the popular summer pastime, which is hurting many water-based businesses.

Lord Fletchers, a restaurant on Lake Minnetonka, relies on boat-up customers during the summer months, but with a no-wake zone in place many boaters aren't making the trek to the Spring Park restaurant.

Tom Emer, the restaurant's general manager, told WCCO that boat-up patrons are about 25 percent of their business – and this year it's down well over 50 percent. Emer says servers and those who help dock the boats are getting hit the hardest.

In an effort to get people in the door, the restaurant is offering "No Wake on the Lake" specials on Sundays.

The news station notes that other businesses, like boat rental places and boat-up gas stations, are also taking a hit – some even limiting the days they're open because they're not taking in any revenue.

Padelford Riverboats and other riverboat cruises are shut down until further notice because of high water levels on the Mississippi River – and many events, like weddings, that are scheduled with these cruises can't be made up again, KSTP reports.

"It's a huge deal for us because we're a small family-run business, and we're seasonal. So we only have five months of season, and this was the busiest 10-day stretch that we had booked through August," Gus Gaspardo of Padelford Riverboats told KSTP.

But it's not just the boat companies that are suffering. The flooding threat has been a challenge for resorts in northern Minnesota, especially near International Falls.

Voyageurs National Park has closed 31 campsites until further notice because docks and boat launches are under water. WCCO says tens of thousands of dollars in losses are likely for similar businesses.

The rainy weather hasn't hurt all businesses, though. For example, attendance at the Children's Museum in St. Paul was up 50 percent last Thursday, the Star Tribune notes.

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