It is almost that time of year when people will float down Penticton’s iconic River Channel. But as of Thursday afternoon, Okanagan Lake was above full pool and rapidly draining into the channel.
“We’ve had to drastically increase outflows through the town,” said Ministry of Forests and Lands Public Safety and Protection head Shaun Reimer. “And right now, we’re actually a little bit higher than our sort of design maximum.”
The Penticton Fire Department is reminding visitors to stay vigilant.
“It is generally a safe environment and it can be a very fun family activity. As long as we respect the water, respect their surroundings that you’ll end up having an enjoyable, very memorable moment in the Okanagan Valley,” said Penticton Fire Chief Larry Watkinson.
The fire department says they performed 18 life-saving measures in 2019 when water levels were about the same as they are now.
“I just want to encourage the residents and the visitors that are coming to Penticton to be mindful of that,” said Watkinson.
“Especially watch out for the children because they can slip away very quickly and you will not be able to catch up with them in that water.”
Officials are reminding floaters to wear a life jacket, to drink responsibly, and not to tie tubes together.
The fire department and Coyote Cruises, a local company that rents floaties and provides shuttle services at the channel are ready to assist anyone who needs help during the season.
“We have lots of safety procedures even at the bottom of a channel,” said Coyote Cruises General Manager Jacob George.
“We got little throw ropes we can throw them to you to paddle off to the side. We have lots of signage. Everybody that comes through here on our tubes gets a little talk when they come through to basically tell them where all the bridges are where to get off what staff members to look for.”
George is also asking residents to be respectful of the channel.
“Both of the endpoints along our channel are on the Penticton Indian Band land, and anybody that comes down the channel this year, I hope that they gather all their garbage that they bring with them,” said George.
“We want to keep it looking nice, want it to be safe when people are coming down, and overall, we just want to be respectful.”
Coyote Cruises say they are expecting a busier summer and want people to not only stay safe but to have fun. The company will kick off this season with the South Okanagan Similkameen Pride Fruit Float on June 25.