Crews already busy with rescues, experts warn James River can be dangerous

RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) – It’s a busy time of the year when thousands of people come out to the James River to enjoy the weather and the water. But river experts warn while it is a wonderful resource, it can also be very dangerous.

“Since January 1st, we’ve had 26 responses to the river, out of those 26 responses, we’ve had 18 rescues,” said Lt. Christopher Armstrong with Richmond Fire & EMS.

Six of those rescues were just this past weekend.

“We are starting to see the numbers kick up, especially for Memorial Day weekend, it’s really, really going to get high,” he said.

It’s something river experts and instructors know well.

“Places like Pony Pasture and Belle Isle I’d say are the two big ones,” said Benjamin Moore, the lead paddleboard instructor at Riverside Outfitters.

“They’ll run these rapids thinking it’s just fun splishy splashy King’s Dominion, and then they’re getting flipped over and they’re getting beat on the rocks,” said Greg Velzy, director of Chesterfield Outdoor Adventure Program.

They say people frequently slip off rocks or try to go swimming, and get sucked down by the strong current.

“Algae grows on the rocks, makes them really slippery,” said Velzy.

“Most of the issues we see involves someone who’s had too much to drink,” said Moore.

Whatever the reason, if you do get pulled into the current, keep your feet up. Don’t try to walk or stand up.

“It is very easy to put your foot under a rock and then you’re doing push-ups off the riverbed,” said Moore.

There are a few other things you should keep in mind before you head out to the river, like checking the water levels.

Get more information here.

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