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‘You could walk the whole river’: Companies that rely on the Otter Tail river suffer as drought persist

All the Pihlaja family could do is watch as their livelihood dried up
Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 5:04 PM CDT
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DETROIT LAKES, M.N. (Valley News Live) - Charlie’s Tubing in Detroit Lakes was only open for 7 days this summer, and all the family could do is watch as their livelihood dried up.

”You could walk the whole river without getting wet right now.” said Charlie Pihlaja.

For more than 30 years the Pihlaja family has earned it’s money from Charlie’s Tubing, a fun summer spot where people could float down the Otter Tail river.

However, this year things have been different.

“We have people come every single weekend and this is what they do with their summers, and they haven’t been able to do that,” said Pihlaja, “A lot of good times were lost.”

With parts of Becker County in extreme drought, the river the family had relied on for so many years has steadily dried up. Pihlaja blames the lack of rain and consecutive temps in the 90′s.

“With that heat it drops water levels over an inch every single day...so, it’s really bad for our river.” Pihlaja said.

Charlie’s Tubing opened Memorial Day weekend and only lasted 7 days before tubers had to walk to stay on track with the river. As a seasonal business whose earnings are supposed to last the family through the winter, they’ve had to seek out other options for income.

“I’ve had to do a little bit of carpentry and construction work for myself, and normally I would be doing this full time.” he said.

Pihlaja said he’s hoping for a lot of rain and snow in the seasons to come.

“We’re just hoping that we still have a river for next year, and the years to come.” said Pihlaja

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