The first sign of trouble on the Elkhorn River was the sound of a father yelling for help.
His kayak had capsized, pitching him into the water and sending his 13-year-old son downstream with the boat.
The scary situation ended safely Sunday, in part because of an aggressive rescue effort. But veteran observers of Nebraska’s rivers worry that other boaters, especially novices, won’t be so lucky. The reason: Historic March flooding has changed the nature of some of the state’s rivers. Notably, the Elkhorn River, and to a lesser extent the Platte River, aren’t as safe as they appear, said Rich Tesar, a retired outfitter and board member of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District.
The Elkhorn especially is running deeper, swifter and stronger than before, and many of the sand bars are gone, Tesar said. In March, thick ice combined with powerful flows from runoff scoured out the river bottom.