, , , ,

Couple of articles from the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

Two incidents leave three drowned in Meramec River

Authorities in Franklin County are investigating two drowning incidents on the Meramec River on Sunday that left two men dead in the one incident and a 4-year-old girl dead in the second.

Managing Ozark rivers poses daunting challenge

The gentle slap of the waves against the aluminum boat is one of the few sounds that register on a sunny afternoon in April. And the silence doesn't go unnoticed by Rick Drummond, the Jacks Fork district ranger for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

"The difference between now and the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day is really just night and day," he said. "My favorite time of the year is the winter, when there's snow on the ground. You might not see anyone all day."

Floating on the local rivers, in canoes, dinghies, rubber tires, small boats, rafts – essentially anything that won't sink immediately – is a very popular Missouri summer pastime. Alas, each year, as the top headline details, a few people drown.

There are two main contributors to these unfortunate events. The first is that the rivers themselves are wild. There are rocks and submerged branches, areas of shallows and areas of rapidity – not violent whitewater rapids, but enough to lose control of a canoe. Secondly, a lot of alcohol is consumed. Perhaps not as much as there used to be, as the second of the two articles describes, but still plenty. A lot of very drunk, loud, racous and not very steady people have negotiated these rivers.

Including myself. I may be living a quiet life these days, but I was much wilder as a younger man. I've been on many floats, drunk on Busch beer, sunburned to a crisp and at risk. One time my canoe capsized under a branch and I was caught and held underwater for a few seconds. Fortunately my companion at that time was able to twist both the canoe and me free, but it was a close thing. Did that stop me floating? Hardly – I just shook it off, emptied the boat, swam out to retrieve the beer cooler that was drifting downstream, and had opened another can.

Not something I would do again – indeed, I now avoid floating trips so I don't have to run into people just like I was then! Older and wiser, as they say. But I can't deny they were fun in their own way.