The riverwalk running along the Assiniboine River to The Forks is closed because of high river levels. ((CBC))

A summer season in Winnipeg marred by heavy rains — and high river levels — is taking a toll on those who use the rivers for business or recreation.

For the third time this summer, the riverside walkway that runs along the Assiniboine River from behind the legislature to The Forks is underwater.

And operators of riverboat tour companies say business is down 90 per cent from last year because fallen trees and riverbank erosion has made travel on the rivers unsafe.

Paul Jordan, CEO of The Forks, called the number of riverwalk closures this year "unprecedented."

"Literally, this is the third time we've cleaned up the riverwalk and we are about to lose it again," Jordan said. He said he felt for boat tour operators.

"It's tough on [them]," Jordan said. "Summertime is when our vendors make their money. Our waterbus guy and our tourboat operator … this is their season, so if they don't have it, and they don't have a big hunk of it, it's really hard for them," he added.

Boats stay docked

The captain of the Paddlewheel River Boats said his boats have not once budged from their docks north of Winnipeg in Selkirk, Man. to travel along the Red into the city.  

"I've been in this business for 41 years, and this is the worst I've ever seen it," Steve Hawchuk said.

"We're only maybe doing 10 per cent of our business out of Selkirk.  We only have one or two cruises a week, just when we have groups.  But to run public everyday, it's just not worth it, because the people don't want to come out that far," Hawchuk said.

Some are calling for the province to use the Red River Floodway to regulate the level of the rivers within the city. However, the use of Duff's Ditch is limited to when there's a threat of homes being flooded.

Gord Cartwright of Splash Dash Tour Boats is an advocate of using the floodway. He said the province is risking the loss of tourism dollars by not doing so.

"If they don't use the floodway to help regulate summer water levels, then there will be no more tourism on the Red River. That would be the end of it," Cartwright said.

Provincial officials said Thursday they would look at the possibility of raising the floodway gates later in the summer.

With files from the CBC's Sean Kavanagh and Mychaylo Prystupa