Canoe and kayak enthusiasts say new funding they lobbied the Iowa Legislature for may help prevent drowning deaths like those of two people on the Iowa River Sunday near Alden. The state will start posting more low head dam warning signs with money appropriated from lawmakers.
John Wenck, vice president of the Iowa Whitewater Coalition, says such a sign might have saved the two men who drowned, as the water around dams can be deceiving. Wenk says people often underestimate the power current near dams, especially in the spring when water levels are high. Wenck says the low-head dams don’t stick way out of the water, and may not give warning to people on the river.
Wenck says the dams may not appear dangerous, and the dams may not be visible from upstream, and people who haven’t been on the river might not know there is a dam there. The Iowa Whitewater Coalition convinced state lawmakers to set aside 200-thousand dollars to post warning signs and build walking trails around low-head dams.
Wenck says it appears the victims near Alden did the right thing by carrying their canoe around the dam, but then entered the river again too close to the churning water. Wenck says the plan would include signs that would tell people there’s a trail to go around the dam and also tell them where it is safe to get back into the river. Wenck says the Department of Natural Resources had ordered signs for the dam near Alden, but the signs hadn’t arrived yet. Twenty-six-year-old Jonathan Hill and 22-year-old Drew Goodknight of Iowa Falls died in that canoe accident Sunday on the Iowa River.