Swimming, canoeing and floating on inner tubes in natural waterways is a summertime tradition in Iowa. But rivers are dynamic systems that change with high flows and have obstacles hidden just beneath the water surface.
To reduce the risk while enjoying Iowa rivers, there are a few simple steps to follow:
The chance of avoiding all types of river rowning drastically increases simply by wearing a lifejacket. It will make all the difference if you step into deeper or faster-flowing water than you expect. Most drowning victims in river incidents were not wearing a life jacket.
Stay in the game.
Using drugs or alcohol reduces judgment. Alcohol is a factor in more than half of rowning.
Avoid areas near dams.
Avoid getting in the water swimming, wading, or boating near low-head dams. Unexpected "roller" currents at dams. Are related to an average of 1.5 river fatalities per year.
Downed trees are common in rivers can act like kitchen sink "strainers," catching people and holding them in it. Other obstacles like bridge piers, scrap metal, or clusters of rocks or concrete can be hazardous in similar ways. Also avoid wading in fast water. Stay clear!
Set the example for your kids.
Be vigilant with kids in rivers, make sure they wear their life jackets before getting in the water, and explain to them the other safety points on this list.
Beat the heat.
Dehydration, heat exhaustion stroke, and heat exhaustion can become serious problems in by mid-summer. Bring plenty of water on river trips, cool off periodically by getting yourself wet or swimming, use sunscreen, and for tubing or paddling trips make sure to choose shorter trips when the river's flow is low.
Watch your kids.
Even with a life jacket, adults are advised to be aware of common river hazards, and to keep a watchful eye on kids in a river at all times, to help them avoid hazards such as woody debris and other objects, or low-head dams.