Boaters Encouraged to Be Safe on Rivers
PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota rivers are filling with the rush of water from the spring snow melt, which can present extra challenges to boaters on those rivers.
“The power of a rapidly running river can create interest among boaters, canoers and kayakers,” said Brandon Gust, boating safety coordinator in the Department of Game, Fish and Parks. “It is a unique and exciting boating opportunity, but those waters also bring safety concerns that should be at the forefront of every outing.”
Low-head dams are high on the list of concerns, and Gust advises boaters to completely avoid them.
“Those structures are called ‘drowning machines’ for a reason,” he said. “Water rolling over low-head dams can capsize boats. The overflow on the dam causes a down-force that can pull a person under, even if wearing a flotation vest.”
Bubbles created by flows over a low-head dam reduce a person’s natural buoyancy. The overflow will pull people under the water, and they may hit rocks or other debris and lose the ability to react. The depth and force of the water will draw victims and debris back toward the dam, and may result in drowning.
“Personal flotation devices are a must for boaters, but even those life-saving aids may not be sufficient against the power of water rushing over low-head dams,” Gust said. “Victims have drowned with their life jackets on and even had the jackets ripped off them.”
Debris caught in the spring rush of rivers can also create eddies that are potentially very dangerous to swimmers. Debris can snag a swimmer’s legs or clothing and place their life in jeopardy by pulling them under the water.
Gust recommends the following safety tips for boaters:
· Tell someone where you are going, when you expect to return, and where to call if you don't.
· Be sure your water skills and experience are equal to the river and the conditions.
· Never boat alone.
· Wear a properly-fitted personal flotation device (PFD) at all times when you are in or near the river.
· Be prepared for extremes in weather, especially cold weather. Know about the dangers of hypothermia and how to deal with it. Know early signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration in hot weather.
· Reduce the threat of injury by wearing protective footwear and proper clothing.
· Carry a first-aid kit and know how to use it. Learn or review medical aid responsibilities and CPR.
· When in doubt, stop and scout.
For more information visit gfp.sd.gov
Boating rules and regulations