River Safety Steps

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As the season of spring unfolds around us, it brings with it warmer temperatures, vibrant landscapes, and an irresistible invitation to embrace the great outdoors. One of nature's most captivating features, the rivers, come alive during this time, offering an abundance of recreational opportunities and moments of tranquility. However, it is crucial to remember that springtime also presents unique challenges and risks when it comes to river safety. 

The record-breaking snowfall has turned to a significant snowmelt and the melt is expected to continue into the summer months.

With the melting of winter snow, our rivers are experiencing higher water levels and flows. These dynamic conditions demand our utmost attention and vigilance. To ensure your safety, please follow these essential guidelines:

  1. The water is deadly cold. Hypothermia is likely unless you are wearing a wetsuit or dry suit designed to keep you warm in frigid temperatures. 
  2. Stay informed. Stay updated with local weather forecasts, river conditions and any advisories or warnings issued by authorities. Knowledge is key to making informed decisions before heading out. A hot day can cause additional snowmelt and swifter water flows.
  3. Wear appropriate safety gear. Wear a properly fitted life jacket when near or on the water - especially children. Regardless of your swimming ability, unexpected situations can arise, and wearing a life jacket significantly increases your chances of staying afloat and being rescued.
  4. Avoid alcohol and drugs. The consumption of alcohol or drugs impairs judgment, coordination and reaction time, making accidents more likely. Save the celebrations for after your river activities.
  5. Assess your skill level. Be honest with yourself about your swimming abilities and experience. Rivers can be deceivingly powerful, and underestimating their strength can lead to dangerous situations. If you're unsure or inexperienced, consider seeking professional guidance or taking a safety course.
  6. Buddy up. Enjoy river activities with a companion or in groups. Having someone watching out for you and vice versa greatly enhances safety. 
  7. Heed warning signs and barriers. Pay attention to any posted signs, warning signals or barricades. They are there for your safety and indicate hazardous areas or conditions that should be avoided.
  8. Be cautious of currents, even when crossing shallow water. Underwater rocks or debris can trap your feet, and currents in even shallow water can then topple and pin you underwater, causing drowning. Swift currents are capable of sweeping even strong swimmers downstream. Avoid venturing into unfamiliar or turbulent waters and be mindful of changing conditions.
  9. Supervise children closely. Children should always be closely supervised and be wearing when near rivers. Even shallow water can pose a threat to their safety, so maintain constant vigilance and keep them within arm's reach.
  10. Be cautious of debris in the water. It can trap swimmers and even boats. 
  11. Communication is key. Inform someone trustworthy about your plans, including your intended location, expected return time and emergency contact numbers. In case of an unforeseen circumstance, this will aid rescuers in locating you swiftly.
  12. Trust your instincts. If you feel uncertain or uncomfortable about a particular situation, trust your gut instincts. It's better to err on the side of caution and choose a safer alternative.

Let us embrace the beauty of our rivers this spring while prioritizing our safety and the safety of others. By adhering to these guidelines, we can enjoy unforgettable experiences while minimizing the risks associated with river activities.