Edmonton

Pembina River tubing trip leaves six stranded overnight

A small tubing company on the Pembina River has found a way to operate during the pandemic, but one group the owner says was turned away this weekend ended up being stranded overnight.

Tubing company now has reservation system but not all are happy to wait, owner says

The beach area where tubers are meant to exit the river at Pembina River Provincial Park. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

A small tubing company on the Pembina River has found a way to operate during the pandemic, but one group the owner says was turned away this weekend ended up being stranded overnight.

The Pembina River Tubing company is about 100 kilometres west of Edmonton. It's been in business for 14 years but has operated from its current location for the last seven. 

Normally about 800 people a day would get on the river at its launch spot, now down to 200. Owner Cheryl Harris says a reservation system has been put in place to ensure people are able to maintain distance.

"The line ups are really short because it's by reservation only," Harris said Monday. "But there's the other side of the coin. People who don't understand that it is by reservation only for the 2020 season, possibly for longer, they're not happy with that because they have no access without a reservation."

Pembina River Tubing owner, Cheryl Harris, urges anyone using the river to do so safely. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Over the weekend, a group Harris says she turned away found their own way onto the river. Five of them were rescued by RCMP early Sunday after being stranded overnight while the sixth member of the group ended up finding his way back to Harris late Sunday. 

"He found our stairs and because he found our stairs he climbed the hill and came to us," Harris said. "We gave him a little bit of food and water, got the cops and told him, 'Here you go! Thank you for showing up because people are worried about you.'"

Harris says while not everyone is happy with the reservation system, it is the only way for them to operate during the pandemic.

The business has also limited their shuttle buses to ten people, installed plastic sheeting on the shuttles and is following extra sanitization procedures.

A groups of tubers get ready to set off from the Pembina River Tubing company's stairs, the same stairs the missing tuber was able to use to find help. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

RCMP issued a public safety advisory last weekend reminding anyone planning on using the river that they must exit at the Pembina River Provincial Park Campgrounds, recommending tubers have life jackets, maps and a plan to enter and exit the river.

Harris also encourages people to be smart and safe on the water.

"If you're not going to use our services, if you're not going to be with us and you're not going to be here, then know where you're going," she said.

"Your friend saying 'I know a place' is not a good enough answer. That's just asking for danger."

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