DENVER — Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials say the state is on a pace to break a record for the number of drownings that have occurred at lakes and rivers.
In 2020, a record 34 drownings were reported. On June 7 of that year, there were only 8 drownings reported.
So far, there have already been 13 drownings in Colorado this year, prompting officials to double down on water safety.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife Safety Manager Grant Brown says understanding water conditions this time of year is key.
"Snow is now melting and running downhill," Brown said.
That's typical for June, but Colorado saw snow events happening later than usual this year.
"This later snow of course is going to make for a later runoff," Brown said.
That means more dangerous conditions in the water.
"There generally can be more debris in the water. It's going to be higher velocity, so it'll be moving faster and moving more debris down river," Brown said.
This time of year also means colder water, which is why experts suggest wearing a wetsuit or something thermal.
"It's pretty quick to start [going] hypothermic, and that's not a place you ever want to be," said Hayley Spurrier, spokeswoman for the Poudre Fire Authority. "Most of our drownings are someone who's not wearing a life jacket."
Spurrier recommends purchasing a U.S. Coast Guard certified life jacket that is appropriately fitted.
"You can be the world's strongest swimmer, and if you get sucked into certain parts of this river, you are not going to be able to just swim your way out of it," Spurrier said.
It's recommended to attach a whistle to your vest to alert others in the case of an emergency. For those who raft or kayak, attaching a knife to your vest can have several purposes, including cutting yourself loose if entangled with anything in the water.
Experts are also urging people to scout any river they'll be recreating on beforehand to be aware of possible dangers along the way.