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Rafting companies on Illinois River are struggling for business despite ideal conditions

Posted at 3:42 PM, Jun 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-10 19:18:56-04

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The water levels on the Illinois River are only slightly above normal, but these last few weeks rafting companies are seeing only a third of their normal numbers.

During the week this season staff at campsites said they're lucky if their get five to ten boats out on the water.

"We had a good Memorial Day river. But people's perception... they thought that we were flooded. They could have come out and we could have floated them. But they believed that we were underwater," said Casey Peyton with Peyton's Place.

That perception is hurting his business, as well as others, like Arrowhead. Both resorts tell 2 Works for You they've lost thousands of customers during what's normally a busy launch to summer.

"We've gone through it before. There's been several summers where we've had four rained out weekends, one of them was the Fourth of July. The impact is not just on us it's around the grocery stores here, convenience stores, restaurants... this river has an impact on the economy of Tahlequah," Arrowhead Resort owner David Spars said.

He'll continue the season like normal, but Spars said this impacts his family too.

"A lot of sacrifice, time away from your family when they were young. You put a lot into it. You have payments that go on for 365 days yet you can only float between 100 and 120. So we're kind of like farmers, it's very seasonal," he said.

July and August are usually the busiest months of the year. Rafting companies said they are feeling optimistic moving forward with plenty of water in the Illinois, despite a slow start.

"Last year we started out really well and this year we're just kind of behind the eight-ball. It's like the equivalent of a football team. We're 0-2, 0-3 right now. So we'll have to build back up and have a strong finish to the season," Spars said.

Both companies say they feel lucky to not fight flooding in Tahlequah, but this will cause a hit for winter projects like renovations.

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