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River hazards abound this Vancouver Island tubing season

Search and Rescue teams warn of hazards to tubers on Cowichan River
Tubers cross the street near Central Park on their way to the Cowichan river for some tubing fun. (Citizen file)

Following two callouts to river rescues in the last week, two of the region’s Search and Rescue teams have opted to warn the public about the hazards they’ve found on the Cowichan River ahead of the popular river tubing season.

Cowichan and Ladysmith’s SAR combined swift water rescue team most recently were called out to rescue a group which included a two-year-old.

“Yesterday we had to rescue a number of adults and a child after two of the adults went into and under a log hazard downstream of Vimy,” said Jeff Lewis, one of the swift water team leaders, on June 22. “Thankfully nobody required hospitalization but both adults were injured. Their raft is still stuck in the wood hazard.”

The crew leader said that due to November floods, the existing wood hazards have become worse and there are new ones extending all the way across the main current where tubers float, “which will only get tighter as the water level drops.”

Lewis said the swift water team has paddled from Cowichan Lake down to the Allenby Road bridge and have noted there are “extremely dangerous wood hazards on most of the common river sections: Little Beach to Skutz, Stoltz Pool to Sandy Pool, Sandy Pool to Vimy, and Vimy to the Allenby Road Bridge.”

The SAR teams noted the cleanest stretch of the river is from Lake Cowichan to Little Beach.

“We highly recommend tubers stick to that stretch of river,” Lewis said.

He reminded adults “that you are no good to your child if you do not put on your PFD.”

Paddlers get onto the Cowichan River near Lake Cowichan on June 26, 2022. Paddlers and tubers are being warned of hazards on the river this year. (Kathryn Swan photo)