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Drought prompts warning to boaters in Illinois

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is urging boaters to use extra caution at public boat launches because water levels are low as a result of drought conditions.

Low water levels increase the risk to boaters launching or removing boats and could lead to boat damage if operators don’t use proper caution, the department said in a press release.

“The most important thing is to use common sense,” department director Marc Miller said in a statement. “As we continue through this drought, water levels on lakes and rivers will probably continue to decrease and some boat ramps may not be able to accommodate the angle some boats need to get in and out of the water.”

Additionally, boaters should exercise additional caution on the water, the department said. Some areas that are usually navigable may not be.

“Conditions change rapidly, and there is no way to constantly monitor every area of every river or lake, which means it is really up to individual boaters to use their best judgment as to whether it’s worth the risk,” Arlan Juhl, director of the department’s Office of Water Resources, said in a statement.

The department owns and manages hundreds of public boat access areas in Illinois. No boat ramps have been closed; boaters can use the ramps at their own risk.

“Water levels in some areas are very low, which makes it difficult to navigate even the smallest and lightest of watercraft,” IDNR Conservation Police Chief Rafael Gutierrez said in a statement. “We have started to receive calls from boaters who have been in areas where they have had no trouble in the past, but are now becoming stranded because of the shallow water.”

Illinois residents and visitors boating and fishing at department-managed sites are encouraged to check with the specific IDNR park office for information about current conditions.

Information about drought conditions is available at the state’s drought information website.

Click here for the full release.

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