The Fox River is so high that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has restricted boating from the Chain O’Lakes to the Montgomery Dam, because of the danger posed by floodwaters. But that didn’t stop two kayakers from entering the river at Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles, officials said.
St. Charles Fire Department Battalion Chief Brian Byrne said he wasn't sure if the kayakers knew the river was closed to watercraft. All official boat launch ramps in St. Charles were closed because of flooding, but, he said, anyone with a kayak could take it out on the river in any number of entry points accessible by foot. They might have thought a kayaking trip would be more fun because the river level increased, Byrne said, adding that he didn't know about the skill level of the men who were rescued.
"I think they just wanted to go kayaking, and they got into a precarious spot because of the swiftness of the current, and they realized they couldn’t paddle fast enough to get back to shore," Byrne said Saturday.
About 7:30 p.m. Friday the St. Charles Fire Department was called to the Main Street Bridge for a river rescue, Fire Chief Joseph Schelstreet wrote in a news release.
Units that responded “discovered that two subjects had gone over the (St. Charles) Dam in kayaks and were in distress,” the release said. A police officer in the area first told dispatchers that several bystanders came up to the officer to report people in the river having difficulty. Dispatchers then called out the fire department and the dive team, officials said.
"They didn't actually enter the river, they were just on standby," Byrne said of the dive team.
One of the kayakers was injured after having hit a rock, and he was able to make it to shore behind a BMO Harris Bank branch at Walnut and Riverside avenues. The other kayaker was swept by the current to the bridge at Illinois and Riverside avenues, the news release said. One of the kayakers was treated at Delnor Community Hospital while the other signed a release refusing medical attention, officials said.
Neither of the rescued men was wearing any type of floatation device, helmet or personal safety equipment, according to the news release.
Brad Winters with the IDNR's Office of Water Resources said that the agency had never before seen the flow volumes into the waterway system, and that it could crest Sunday or Monday. The Fox River in New Munster, Wis., crested Thursday and had started to go down, but not before it hit a record high that was two feet over the 2004 record for the river and Chain O'Lakes area.
After a second kayaker rescue, that one in Oswego on Saturday, Byrne said it's important for kayakers to remember that area rivers are currently unpredictable because of the flooding.