Rivers rage as snow melts during Colorado spring: 13 tips for river, water safety

Posted at 5:16 PM, Jun 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-14 19:16:21-04

DENVER — Rivers are raging in Colorado now due to snow melt and a wet spring. It's led to a host of fun on Colorado waterways like river surfing (seen above), rafting and kayaking — it's also quite dangerous. 

Deputies and first responders have been forced to make several water rescues already this year, leading to rafting restrictions across Jefferson County that will last until water levels decrease.

Authorities in Larimer County also expect the high water levels to persist as temperatures continue to rise. They anticipate tens of thousands of people to visit county waterways through the summer alone. 

Caution should be taken when planning or embarking upon a rafting, tubing, fishing or even swimming trip.

Follow these tips to stay safe while out on the waterways:

·Tell someone where you are going, when you expect to return and where and who to call if you don’t. If your plans change while you are traveling, put a note in your car on the driver’s side dashboard with the new plans.

·Wear a life jacket. Wear a properly fitting personal floatation device for all river activities. Don’t assume you have the swimming skills to keep afloat, even the strongest swimmers can drown.

·Keep a close watch on children, even if they are far from the water. Water safety for children is especially important as they can quickly enter the water and get in trouble when your attention is diverted for only a moment.

·Never walk, play or climb on slippery rocks and logs near rivers and streams.

·Stay away from riverbanks during times of high flowing water. The banks may have become unstable and give way underneath you.

·Never forget the power of the river, especially when it is running high and fast from spring runoff or recent heavy rains. Waters in rivers exert very powerful force against any fixed object.

·Check river and stream conditions before heading out.

·Avoid Dams. Small low-head dams are responsible for over 8 percent of river fatalities, authorities report. Most dams are much worse than they look! Know the location of dams before recreating on the river, avoid getting to close.

·Be aware of your own limitations in the water. Even if you are a good swimmer, fast moving water and under currents can easily catch you off guard. Additionally, there are often rocks or other obstacles underneath the water that can knock you off balance even in shallow water depths.

·Watch your surroundings, including the weather. Be prepared for extremes in the weather, especially if more rain is predicted. This can alter the water flow and depth in a short period of time and also contribute to hypothermia. When your clothes are soaking wet, hypothermia is a danger even in the summer.

·Carry a first aid kit and know how to use it. Take a first aid course for CPR and basic medical assistance.

·If caught in a fast flowing river, rapids or storm water, try to float feet first in a half sit position.

·Remember the age-old phrase, "Reach or throw, don’t go!" If someone is caught in fast moving water, reach out to them or throw a rope to the person in the water. Don’t go into the water yourself or you may also become in need of rescuing.