Sheriff: May be best to stay out of river for a while - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Sheriff: May be best to stay out of river for a while

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Alligator mating season means authorities are warning swimmers in one South Georgia river to beware. The Sheriff in Ben Hill County is warning people not to go tubing down to Ocmulgee River.

His caution comes after several people had to be pulled to safety. He says this time of year  the shallow waters paired with alligator mating season makes for dangerous situation.

In 100 degree temperatures many of us will turn to local rivers for some relief but Ben Hill County Sheriff Bobby McLemore is warning folks to think twice before heading to the Ocmulgee, especially with just an inner tube.

He called conditions, "Very dangerous. I would say to anyone if you are going to be on an inner tube floating down that river this is not the time to do it."

He says around 10:00 Saturday night, he got a call from a woman concerned about her husband's safety. He and five other people including a two year old took off on a tubing trip that afternoon at 1:00.

At 10:00 that night they had still not made it to their destination. "Our main concern was they had a two year old child floating down the river without a life jacket on."

What started off as a harmless afternoon trip turned into a slow moving and potentially dangerous journey. "That's about 12 miles by water and with the river so low we estimated about an hour per mile you would float down the river."

With the river level that low, the Sheriff estimates it would have taken them 12 hours to travel 12 miles which would have put the group back on land at 1am. Sheriff McLemore took off with a DNR ranger in search of the group, and encountered dangerous situations including 50 alligators, some 8 to 10 feet long in about a quarter mile stretch.

"It's mating season for the alligators they are very viscous at this time and they were in a lot of danger they didn't realize they were in."

Thankfully, the group was spotted on a bluff with a fire, and the sheriff and ranger loaded the people up got them hope safely. "Usually one side of the river is deeper than the other side but in some cases we are talking about less than a foot deep all the way across the river.

It was a rough trip in the boat too the sheriff says the thick fog and debris made it an uneasy trip. 

"Many times we ran over stumps and logs and many times we had to pick the motor up and pick the paddle up and push us off the sand. The Sheriff says the people were not pulled to safety until 4:00am that morning.

Two men decided to stay on the bluff and walk to the highway in the morning. The sheriff says any time you are on an inner tube, you must wear a life jacket.

 

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