Hot weather, cold water raise safety alert

As people flock to the water to cool off this summer, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) and the Oregon State Marine Board (OSMB) remind people to play it safe at Oregon’s beaches, lakes and rivers.

Be Safe Exploring the Beach

The Pacific Ocean is a powerful force, and all visitors should know how to stay safe and teach children the same. Even the strongest swimmers can be vulnerable to rip currents — fast-moving channels that flow out to sea. Choppy dark water and floating debris serve as warnings of rip currents.

“If you become caught in a rip current, don’t panic,” said Robert Smith, who coordinates OPRD’s safety program. “Swim parallel to the beach until you are out of the rip, then swim back to the beach.”

Climbing or hiking along beachside cliffs can be extremely dangerous. Cliff edges may look stable, but many can crumble easily with the slightest weight. “Taking one step closer to the edge may be all that is needed to crumble a bluff,” Smith said. “Please stay on trails, respect signs and stay behind fences.”

More beach safety tips are at stateparks.oregon.gov.

Safety Tips for Rivers and Lakes

Be aware that rivers fed by snowmelt run cold even on hot days. And swift currents hidden beneath the surface can catch swimmers off guard.

“If you get caught in the current, know how to float with your feet pointing downstream and have your life jacket straps secured to the jacket so they don’t get tangled in any underwater snags,” said Ashley Massey, spokeswoman for OSMB.

Visitors heading out to a lake or river that typically has a life jacket loaner station will need to bring their own. OSMB and OPRD closed all loaner stations for 2020 due to sanitation concerns related to COVID-19.

“The Marine Board supports closing the stations to protect public health, and recommends visitors bring — and wear — their own jackets,” Massey said. “Accidents happen quickly, and there isn’t time to put on a jacket in the middle of an emergency.”

For information on proper fit and caring for your life jacket, visit oregon.gov/osmb/boater-info/Pages/Life-Jackets.

Water Recreation and COVID-19

It is important to follow these safety tips every summer, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when first responders are stretched thin and worry about exposure to the virus.

When selecting a spot to splash, visitors should choose one close to home and be ready to turn back if the parking lot is full. Visitors should bring everything they need to avoid making unnecessary stops.

Additionally, visitors are asked to wear face covers in tight outdoor spaces such as trailheads, docks and boat ramps.

“Help us keep parks and beaches open by following these precautions and ensuring these areas are safer for everyone,” said Jo Niehaus, spokeswoman for OPRD.

For additional tips about safe recreation during the pandemic, visit OPRD’s COVID-19 Day-use Guide. Recreational boating information is at oregon.gov/osmb/info/Pages/COVID-19.

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