OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) — Ogden City officials are asking people to avoid rivers in the area for the time being as the record snow is leading to record-high water levels. With many schools in the area letting out for spring break, the city hopes to avoid unnecessary accidents.   

“The water is extremely powerful and it’s deceiving how fast the water can move and the forces of the water,” Shawn Waller told ABC4. Waller is part of the Ogden Fire Department’s swift water rescue team. The team is called out when a person has been swept away in a river.  

“We send one person to the point last seen, start getting a description of the person that went in and where they were at,” Waller explained. “And then, we have people staging in predetermined locations waiting for those victims to come downstream.”  

The Ogden River Parkway offers 17 miles of trails along the river, making it a popular place for lots of people to visit.  

“We are driving across the country,” Sam Rusak told ABC4 Reporter Kade Garner. “We both work as river guides. He’s going to Washington; I’m going to California. We have a bunch of friends up here in Salt Lake. They said the whitewater is really good right now, so we came and stopped for a little while.”  

Rusak and his friend Liam Anderson have spent the last few days kayaking down Ogden River.  

“There’s only like a two-foot gap under some bridges and we’re kind of working our way under,” Rusak stated. Anderson then added: “And that’s the other is the other scary bit, right? You don’t know how much higher the water’s gotten since yesterday and the day before. So, every time you come around a corner, you’re looking for new pieces of wood, how close you are to that low-hanging bridge.”  

The river is the highest it’s been in years. The kayakers said that is something they could tell as they were on the water passing over tree branches submerged below. The two don’t recommend the average person try to float the river.   

Ogden City is asking people to stay out of the water altogether. Both Ogden and Weber Rivers are considered dangerous at this time.  

“Our rivers run anywhere from 500 to 800 cubic feet (about the volume of a large U-Haul truck) of water per second,” Ogden City Fire Emergency Management Battalion Chief Kenny Miller explained. “Currently, right now, we’re running about 1,000 cubic feet per second which is pretty fast.” He explained that next week. The water flow will increase by about an additional 66 percent, or between 1,500 and 1,700 cubic feet (about twice the volume of a large U-Haul truck) per second. 

This will happen because water will be released from reservoirs into the rivers. Pineview Reservoir will release water into Ogden River. They must do this to make room for the abundance of water in the Ogden Watershed.   

According to the city, there are more than 275,000 acre-feet of water accumulated in the watershed currently. Pineview Reservoir reaches capacity at 110,150 acre-feet, so this increased flow is necessary to manage the rate at which the reservoir will fill as the snow melts this spring.  

The release will also help prevent future flooding.    

Right now, Ogden River is flowing at a speed of about 10 miles per hour and is about 7 to 8 feet deep. “To give you an idea of how dangerous that is, at seven to eight miles an hour, if you’re in 10 inches of water it will knock a normal person off their feet,” Miller stated. “At waist deep, three to four miles an hour will knock a normal person off their feet and wash them down the river.”  

“The water is cold, it’s moving fast, they can get hung up in a strainer or any other obstacles in the water, and it’s a high probability of drowning,” Waller commented.  

The kayakers said there are only about two feet of clearance between the top of the water and the bottom of many of the bridges. City officials said that next with the release of additional water, there will be no clearance under those bridges making the river even more dangerous if someone finds themself in the water.  

If you do decide to spend some time out near the river over the next few days, officials encourage you to stay at least 15 feet from the water’s edge.