Payette River at the Island (copy)

Water levels at the Island in Emmett have rose more than 2 feet recently.

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Originally published June 20 on KTVB.COM.

As the family of Everette Jackson mourns the loss of the 21-year-old, for some, it’s now bringing the idea of river safety top of mind.

Crews found Jackson’s body in the Payette River in Emmett, eight days after he floated the river. The Gem County Sheriff’s Office called Jackson’s death an accidental drowning.

Jackson was visiting the area from Louisiana.

KTVB reached out to river expert Kenneth Long, the general manager at Cascade Raft and Kayak in Horseshoe Bend. He says it’s important to know your limits and be prepared for what you’re doing.

“The thing with springtime Idaho is the flows are very variable so the river can go up and down dramatically in very short order,” Long said.

Long believes those were likely the conditions when Jackson was floating the Payette River.

“When that situation unfolded, unfortunately that was part of the massive rising of the Payette River at that time,” Long said.

He has been with Cascade Raft and Kayak for 25 years. He says wearing a life jacket is the No. 1 safety measure people should take.

“The current is always moving and it’s very cold, so if you find yourself in the water, that current is going to keep pulling you, and pulling you, and dragging you downstream, and that cold water, particularly right now, could zap your strength and make it very difficult for you to get out if you don’t have the proper equipment to keep you safe,” Long said.

He adds some folks might be caught off guard right now since Idaho has been dealing with drought conditions, and recently received unexpected amounts of wet weather.

“All of a sudden, we’ve got the river higher than we’ve seen in four or five years, and quite unexpectedly, to be honest,” Long said. “If you’re going tubing, stretch, make sure you know the take-outs and the put-ins, and make sure you know what the rapids are, and what the water is in between there. If you’re doing whitewater, you need to know your skill and the people you’re going with so you could all participate in getting safely down the river.”

Lastly, if you do find yourself in the water, Long told KTVB, most people try to stand, but if you do that, you could smash your knees, ankles or get your foot trapped. Instead, he said, lay flat on your back.

“Getting your feet up on top of the water is very important,” Long said. “When you’re dealing with any sort of higher water and the river’s up into the bushes and the trees, you need to know that you need to stay away, and swim away, from the trees or any of the bushes. The water will go through those trees and bushes, but boats, people, and things like that will get hung up and stuck. They’re called strainers.”

Strainers should be avoided, he warns. Also, keep in mind, right now the water is cold, so make sure to properly dress in wetsuits because having the right gear is important.

Long told KTVB he hears about some kind of tragedy happening in the river once or twice a summer because of the unpredictability of the river.

As for Jackson, the Gem County Coroner told KTVB his body is with the coroner’s office right now and he’ll soon be sent to Louisiana to be with his family.

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