“At this point, our best guess and our hopes are set up for a start of sailing season, towards the end of June,” Mike Steckhan said.
Steckhan added that if groups are limited to two to four people, they won’t be able to operate.
“Right now, for example, we can’t operate because we simply can’t put enough people on the boat to make it worthwhile ” Steckhan said.
The river water levels are also very low at the moment, something Steckhan says is almost normal for this time of year.
He explained there are two rushes of water that come into the South Saskatchewan River basin.
The first one comes in early spring when snow is melting off farmer’s fields and other land and travels down south. Steckhan said this year there wasn’t as much water, and most of it went into filling Lake Diefenbaker, so it didn’t make it past that point.
The second rush of water comes in mid-June to early July from the melting snow in the Rocky Mountains.
“A lot of that moisture comes down in a rush, and if it’s a fast melt in the Rockies it could really come in quickly,” Steckhan said.
Steckhan explained that rush of water will finish filling Lake Diefenbaker by late June to early July and chances are the Gardiner Dam will be open not only to full power production, but possibly to the point where the Dam will open its spillways for excess water.
“That’s usually when we get our highest water here in Saskatoon — usually late June, early July, for a few weeks.”
Steckhan said once the water from the Rockies depletes, water levels taper down to normal for the remainder of the year.
He added that the Prairie Lily is able to operate at the lowest level rates because the crew uses bathymetric mapping.
“We actually create a topographical map of the riverbed two or three times a year as the sandbars move and change, as the currents change and the flows change, so we can actually follow a channel.”
Steckhan’s advice for other power-boat users is that unless they use the same mapping technique and have experience, don’t boat on the river when the water is so low.
“You’ll simply spend half your day on the sandbar or do a tremendous amount of damage to your engine,” Steckhan cautioned.
Steckhan said it’s better to boat on a lake with higher water levels in that case.
— with files from Brady Ratzlaff