Dangerous high water dampens weekend water activities

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High water is creating dangerous conditions on streams, lakes and rivers across the state, and will limit long-awaited summer fun on the water this weekend.

The Associated Press reported that firefighters in Stearns County rescued a man on the Sauk River after his canoe capsized in the fast-moving water. Two others who were thrown into the river were able to swim to shore Thursday night. A third man swam to an island and clung to branches until help arrived.

The Stearns County website reminded residents that the county is experiencing unusually high water levels. As a result, the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office is placing “No Wake” signs in all county waters, asking boat operators to reduce their speed to create no wake or waves from their boat.

"Water patrol officers will be out on area lakes over the weekend ... reminding boaters to follow these recommendations," the site said.

A "no wake" zone is currently in effect on the St. Croix River from Taylors Falls to Prescott. The Minneapolis locks on the Mississippi River are closed to recreational traffic.

Meanwhile, KSTP reports the water has reached record levels on Lake Minnetonka, where a "no wake" restriction has been placed on the entire lake until the water level recedes. The Lake Minnetonka Conservation District approved an emergency high water ordinance Thursday, meaning speed and wake restrictions are in place. The lake is up about 18 inches this year and restrictions will remain in effect until the level remains below 930.30 feet for three consecutive days – a drop of at least 8 inches.

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"I'm in my 20th year with the agency, and this is the first time we've had to do this," said the conservation district's Greg Nybeck.

FOX 9 reports the restrictions will interfere with weekend revelers who flock to the west metro lake to tube, ski and wakeboard. The lake remains open for business, but the recreational boat use is essentially shut down because most boats create a wake if speeds exceed 5 miles per hour. The Hennepin County Water Patrol will be out on the lake in the coming days, but officers will be out to educate boaters rather than to cite them.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources urges all boaters, paddlers, anglers and swimmers to "not let their guard down."

“People should always wear their life jackets every time they step on a boat and especially during times of high water,” said Kara Owens, DNR boating safety specialist.

The DNR also wants boaters to be aware that there is much more debris in the water.

“Debris will often float just at or below the surface. Hitting a log at high speed could result in anything from a broken propeller to a ruined lower unit — or worse, serious injuries to those who wanted to enjoy a day on the water,” said Owens.

So far this year in Minnesota, one person has died in a boating accident and six others have drowned.

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