RED DEER -- Officials are asking people to avoid recreational use of the Red Deer River because of high water levels.

Emergency crews were called to assist several people on the river on Saturday afternoon.

Around 3:45 p.m., crews received a distress call from a group of rafters near the Gaetz Avenue bridge.

The rafts, which were tied together, got hung up on bridge pilings, separating and overturning the rafts. Eleven rafters ended up in the water. Some nearby kayakers were able to provide some assistance, but several of the rafters were swept downstream.

All of the rafters were rescued by 4:15 p.m.

While the rescue was underway, two more rafters from a different party went into the water under the same bridge. They were also rescued.

No one was injured in either incident.

Anyone who is using the river is asked to consider the following guidelines:

  • Estimate your time of arrival and make sure someone knows your itinerary.
  • Life jackets should be worn at all times.
  • Carry oars or paddles to navigate and avoid obstacles.
  • Be prepared for unexpected conditions and pack your raft/boat with suitable warm clothing, water and other necessities in case of emergencies.
  • Use proper floating devices. Inflatable toys are designed for floating on lakes, not in flowing waters.
  • Do not tie rafts, tubes or dinghies together. When rafts are tied together, rafters run the risk of getting caught up around bridge pillars and floating debris.