With Oklahoma’s unpredictable weather and its uncontrollable effects on Tahlequah’s Illinois River water level, it’s important to consider some safety guidelines before floating the river.
It’s true that some outfitters along the Illinois River allow visitors to float whether it’s raining or not, being prepared and knowing the safety precautions during day trips will make your experience more enjoyable and memorable.
Illinois River floating offers adrenaline pumping adventure and fun along a breathtaking landscape, but your day trip could go wrong if you’re not prepared for low levels, or the dangers of drifting off after a flood. Here are the right times to do float trips based on the water level, what age bracket should be floating, and water level averages.
When Is the Right Time For Illinois River Float Trips
The Illinois River is a Class III River in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and should be visited for leisure according to its water level. Like any other water sport, you should plan ahead to ensure safety throughout your float trip.
Below are the Riverbend By The Bridge safety guidelines according to water levels at the time of your float trip:
- 6’ Children 10 years of age and younger shall float in rafts only.
- 6.5’ Kayak floating restricted to those 16 years of age and older.
- 7’ Rafts only, everyone must be at least 16 years of age or older.
- 7.5’ All floating trip must cease.
- These safety guidelines are based on the Hwy 62 bridge gauge known as the Tahlequah Gauge. *Other outfitters in different locations may use different gauge sites for their guidelines.
The Illinois River safety guidelines are based on water conditions, you may or may not be allowed to float depending on water conditions. However, if you weren’t able to float the river on your schedule, Riverbend By The Bridge will re-book your next float trip according to your available time.
What Age Bracket Can Float Based on the Water Level
Safety guidelines are also based on age groups, so sometimes adults float Illinois River while kids simply can’t, according to water levels.
State Law requires children aged 12 and below to always wear their life jackets. We offer different sizes of vest life jackets to suit each age group and a float plan. If the water level reaches 6 ft or higher, all adults are urged to put on a life jacket or personal floating device as advised by the Grand River Dam Authority.
Children can use custom-sized jackets and water shoes to ensure their safety during the Illinois River float trip. It’s also recommended to bring a dry box and sunscreen. Riverbend By The Bridge provides free trash bags to all floaters.
Most importantly, all floaters are required to sign a liability waiver before booking float trips
Illinois River in Tahlequah Water Level Average
The average water level is 4 ft. to 5.5 ft. River levels within the average numbers mean a perfect time to safely go on a river float with easily navigable river conditions.
However, the depth can go as deep as 14 ft. There are 12 stream-gauging stations that monitor this deepest point to ensure the public doesn’t go in danger while floating the Illinois River.
Who To Contact
For more information, and up to date conditions from the river, you can check the USGS website here. Riverbend By The Bridge customers should look at the Tahlequah Gauge.