SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Sioux Falls Fire Rescue is reminding everyone enjoying our warm weather along the Big Sioux River not to venture too close to the water’s edge. The spring snowmelt is creating a dangerously swift current at popular destinations like Falls Park.
USF nursing student Haley Chambless, along with her dogs Nalle and Lilah, are regular visitors to Falls Park. Chambless is ever mindful of keeping a safe distance from the rapid current.
“I’ve been bringing my dogs out here so I was afraid if we got too close to the water, they might jump in and I’d have to rescue them,” Chambless said.
Chambless has been alarmed by the number of park visitors who are actually stepping foot into the river.
“I saw several people in the water this weekend and I was afraid of what could happen if they got swept away and it could be really dangerous with all these rocks,” Chambless said.
More visitors are coming to Falls Park as the weather warms up, lured by the spectacle of the rushing water from the Big Sioux River. They can safely watch from protected observation decks and from behind railings and along the paved walkways. But the danger arises whenever people climb down upon the wet rocks along the riverbank.
“Especially with the increased flows that we’re seeing right now all it takes is one slip and suddenly, you find yourself in a pretty good current and it can be hard to get back to shore,” Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Mike Murphy said.
The strong current is also churning-up plenty of foam in the water. And that can create an additional hazard to park visitors because you can’t tell where the ground ends and the water begins.
“With the increased spring runoff, we do see a little foam buildup down here at the Falls and obviously the posted signs remind individuals to stay away from that as well. But it’s typically a unique spring occurrence, as we see that increased runoff,” Murphy said.
Murphy says staying at least 10 feet from the water’s edge should give you enough margin for error to keep out of the river if you should happen to slip. Any closer, and you run the risk of a dangerous plunge.
If you should happen to see someone fall into the water, it’s important to call 911 right away and give dispatchers a description of what the person was wearing and exactly where in the river they fell.