Boaters are being encouraged to stay off the Mississippi River from Clinton to the Missouri border because of high water levels.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources issued the warning Wednesday after two people were towed from the river when the 18-foot runabout they were operating lost power because of an overheated engine. The boat began drifting downriver at a rapid pace with no control over where it went.

They boaters put in the river at LeClaire and were attempting to reach Clinton before heading back. The engine overheated near Camanche, causing loss of power.

“We are advising against boating on the Mississippi River from Clinton down to the Missouri border until the water level drops several more feet, and that could take weeks,” said State Conservation Officer Ed Kocal of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The Mississippi River level was 17.5 feet at Rock Island at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 2.5 feet above flood stage. It is not expected to fall below flood stage until Sunday. Downstream, the river level is even higher, the department said.

Upstream, near McGregor, the river is just below flood stage, leaving no sandbars or places for boats to tie up. Boaters heading out on the upper pools should use extreme caution and check with local marinas ahead of time to make sure their ramps are open, in the event that the river dictates a change in plans.

Flooding isn’t restricted to the Mississippi River. The Cedar and Iowa rivers in southeast Iowa also are above flood stage and caution is urged on those rivers as well.

In Illinois, the Rock River is at 13.1 feet at Moline, 2.1 feet above flood stage.

Heavy rains last week also washed debris into the river. That, combined with little water clarity and a strong current, makes for a hazardous situation.

“Boaters should make plans to go boating on a lake this year until the river comes down to more normal flows and the hazards decrease,” Kocal said.

I'm the city editor at the Quad-City Times. You can reach me at dbowerman@qctimes.com or 563-383-2450.

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