Water safety tips

Published: Jun. 13, 2021 at 8:24 PM MDT|Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 8:07 PM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - With these triple digit temperatures, more and more people are recreating in the water. But it’s important to make sure you’re doing so safely.

But not all realize that the river can be dangerous and certain safety protocols must be met in order to have fun in the water and not get hurt.

Just last Friday, three people were rescued from the river in Clifton. Mesa County Sheriff’s Office said one of their inner tubes popped while floating, because they were not in an approved water craft, causing them all to go into the water. Also, only one person was wearing a life jacket.

First, make sure to wear a lifejacket, otherwise known as a PFD, that fits you correctly, even if you’re a strong swimmer. Second, it’s important to use the proper water craft for the activity you’re doing. People can get in trouble if they don’t have the correct equipment.

“We want a tight fitting lifejacket for multiple reasons,” says Grand Junction Stand Up Paddle Business Development Manager James Stover. “The number 1 reason is it’s the best handhold to pull somebody back on a craft. Also they’re much less likely to get hung up on things, both on the riverbank and in the river itself. A tight fitting PFD is also much less likely to ride up. When the PFD rides up it brings your mouth closer to the water and you start taking in water when you’re breathing.”

Lifejackets are free to borrow at most boat ramps in Mesa County. They’re even alongside some parts of the river.

Another tip is to not swim at boat ramps. Currents can quickly drag someone underwater or downstream. Unstable riverbanks have a ground which can erode underneath, and breakaway without warning. If you’re standing on it, you can get swept away.

It’s also important to check river conditions before you go, including the volume, undercurrents, and how high the river is flowing. Not all hazards can be seen from the surface, even gentle stretches of water can have dangerous undercurrents. Debris can create dangerous undercurrents that can trap you underwater or deflate equipment that is not designed for the river. Using the proper equipment designed for the river, not pool toys or inner tubes, will save your life. As sub-standard equipment will not protect you from river hazards.

The Town Float from Palisade Rim to Loma, which stops here at Riverfront Park at Las Colonias is a popular river to start at because it’s known as a beginner’s river. Due to it having minimal whitewater and no real downstream hazards like rapids. But accidents and drowning can still occur. The lazy river on the side of Las Colonias is an option for less safety precaution.

“What we mostly see is people who generally don’t know where they’re going and don’t have the right equipment,” says Grand Junction Fire Department Captain Jamie Kavanaugh. “So we really recommend if you’re going out in the main river that you have a lifejacket. You’ve gotta have a lifejacket, there’s even free ones on the side of the river at certain locations. So make sure you wear a lifejacket and an approved water craft if you’re going in the actual river.”

Grand Junction Fire Rescue also mentioned those who get a little too intoxicated on the water and can’t care for themselves if something goes wrong. So staying sober enough to be coherent and pay attention is also important.

Lastly, it is recommended to raft in groups, not alone. A preferred minimum is three boats. Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.

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