BLM reminds the public to recreate responsibly on rivers, lakes, recreation sites

SACRAMENTO, Calif. As we head into summer, water recreation is picking up throughout California. The Bureau of Land Management is reminding the public to recreate responsibly on California lakes and rivers, in day-use areas, or when fishing, boating, swimming or performing other forms of water recreation.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning accidents are among the most common cause of death. Wearing a life jacket is not only required for children on a moving recreational vessel who are under 13 years of age, they are also essential safety gear for all ages including adults and can save lives.

three people with life jackets in a white water raft.

Streams, especially on the east- and west-side of the Sierra Nevada, may be above flood stage as temperatures rise and are running colder, higher and faster than they have in recent years – due to the melting of heavy-mountain snowpack. The frigid waters can cause a rapid loss of body heat known as hypothermia, which can be deadly. It can also cause a person’s muscles to cramp quickly, affecting their ability to swim and get out of the water.

There are also other hidden dangers to consider before entering the water. For example, some rivers, like the Trinity River and Clear Creek are controlled by dams. “Water levels and rates of flow can change suddenly when water is released from dams, and swimmers can suddenly find themselves in deeper water and faster currents,” said Redding Field Manager Jennifer Mata. Planned releases are often posted on kiosks. Information on streamflow rates, shown in cubic feet per second, can be found online, and visitors should pay attention to and obey any posted signs downstream of dams.

The BLM is posting warning signs in day-use areas and other recreation sites along rivers, including the Kern River, due to the risks involved with swift-moving waterways, treacherous rocks hidden beneath the surface of the water, and undertows and currents, which create very dangerous conditions downstream.

"To provide a safe, secure and enjoyable environment for the public, we encourage people to take water safety seriously," advises Bakersfield Field Manager Gabriel Garcia. "The Kern River has powerful currents that can easily sweep you off your feet, so we encourage visitors to stay out of the Kern River. Visiting rivers, lakes and other waterways can be excellent ways to cool off in the summer, but before you dive in, please be prepared and Know Before You Go.”

Garcia says Keysville Special Recreation Management Area remains open; however, swimming is strongly discouraged and entering the water is at your own risk.

three yellow and red kayaks in a blue river with tall evergreens in the background

Other considerations include:

  • Stay away from river edges and check for closures or warnings before venturing outdoors. Also, watch out for floating debris such as tree limbs that might have been washed into the river or stream.
  • Rattlesnakes are found throughout the river area and hikers and campers should be careful where they put their hands and feet.
  • If rafting or kayaking, use all appropriate safety gear. Watch children closely; keep them away from fast moving water, be sure they have flotation devices and stay close to them while they are playing in or near the water.
  • In Sacramento County, there are life vest borrowing stations along the public waterways or at a local fire station. Find out more information by visiting Sacramento County Regional Parks’ Kids Don’t Float website.  
  • Stay hydrated with extreme temperature changes; it is not uncommon to see more injuries and fatalities in the summer due to heat stroke or dehydration, since temperatures often soar above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • And finally, be sure to bring extra water and remember to sip often.

Sarah Denos

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