SOUTH SHENANGO TOWNSHIP, Crawford County – Casey Shilling has had a tough time this summer keeping his business above water.
“All of this rain and flooding we’ve been having has been rough,’’ said Shilling, co-owner of Carried Away Outfitters.
Based in South Shenango Township in Crawford County, Shilling sells and rents kayaks, canoes and standing boards to adventurers on Pymatuning Lake and the Shenango River. The store is next to Mortals Key Brewing Co. on East Lake Road just outside of Jamestown. The Greenville operation, in Riverside Park, offers rentals.
Business at the lake hasn’t been bad. But the more popular river excursions have struggled because of the rainy summer – particularly this past week, Shilling said.
“We haven’t been open since Friday,’’ he said of the river adventures. “With the rain we’ve gotten, the water is just too high.’’
Even worse, heavy rains this year have made navigating the river difficult.
“The flooding we’ve gotten has washed out the root structures of trees along the river,’’ Shilling said. “That and the wind has caused them to fall in the river, and it’s creating complete blockages.’’
Between the heavy rains and the fallen trees, boating on the Shenango River has become potentially hazardous.
Those hazards contributed to an incident Tuesday. Two women and two young children had to be rescued when their rafts became snagged by trees in the river.
Greenville police said Brianna R. Wotherspoon of Jefferson Township, and her daughter Isabella Millren, 5, and son, Lucas Millren, 4, and Elisa D. Wotherspoon of Greenville, took an excursion on the Shenango River with two inflatable rafts.
The four started out at the Halfway Road launch south of Jamestown with one child and one adult in each raft, police said. One of the rafts began to rapidly lose air. At that point, the women put both children in the remaining raft and swam down the river while hanging on each side.
The river, swollen from recent rains, swiftly carried the group downstream where the raft became entangled in an area that had a fallen tree and other debris, police said. The river was more than five feet deep in some places near the location.
Two people walking along a trail near the river heard the women call for help. Greenville Fire Department responded and rescued the two children and women. None of the four were injured and no one required hospital care. The incident remains under investigation.
Shilling was out with a chainsaw Wednesday along with other volunteers chopping up downed trees to clear a path in the river.
“There’s about five blockages in the river, and I only had time to do one small section. I had to stop when the storm came in,’’ he said.
This isn’t random chopping, he added.
“We keep as much of the tree’s roots intact on the banks as we can for habitat control,’’ Shilling said.
And a big factor with the Shenango River, he said, is that it has a slender width. When trees fall into the water, they obstruct the river flow.
“I love our river. It’s absolutely gorgeous,’’ Shilling said. “But it’s narrow, and because of that, when anything falls into it, it creates a strainer in the river.’’
As for Shilling, he expects to be out on the river again today with his chainsaw to clear the way for paddlers.
“I’m hoping to have the river cleared by this weekend,’’ he said.