Sink in the Savannah River or swim in the Augusta Canal


News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, July 18, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- All the signs say "no," but like forbidden fruit, some people just want what they can't have, and it's getting them into trouble.

On Wednesday, four people were rescued from the Savannah River.

"They took a raft out on to the river. They got themselves in trouble at I-20, and the Fire and Rescue had to go get them and help them get out of the river," Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus said.

With rain every single day minus one this month, the river is growing fuller and faster.

"It's about 30 knots, which is about 30 miles per hour, so it's moving very, very quickly," Bonitatibus explained.

That's about 10 times faster than normal, and in those waters are dangers you can see -- and many you can't.

"You have lot of eddies, so places that are usually out of the water right now are creating areas that could suck you under," Bonitatibus warned.

Even if you don't care about that, Bonitatibus says staying off the river is about more than your own safety.

"Just because you think you know what you're doing doesn't mean it's fair for you to put our fire department and our safety folks at risk," she said.

The good news is if you're dying to get in the water, there is another option. Unlike the Savannah River where you'd be risking your life, the Augusta Canal is as safe as it's ever been.

"It's nice, it's safe. It's almost a float. You can almost float down to Lake Olmstead without paddling," said Steve Wright, Savannah Rapids Kayak Rental owner.

Wright rents kayaks at the Savannah Rapids Pavilion in Augusta. He's not renting for the river right now but says the canal is smooth sailing. It's keeping his business and his patrons afloat.

"We just put a church group in this morning. We had a man with two sons, we've had children in there, and it's no problem at all," he explained.

With another waterway open, it's giving people the option to sink or swim the canal.

"It's as safe as it ever was. You don't have to risk your life like you would in the river," Wright said.

The Riverkeeper says the water should start going down in about a month but warns that even when it does, it won't be the same river we knew before.

Banks have caved in, sandbars have moved, and it will take some time to relearn the waterway.


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