Water and River Safety
Issued 5/31/16 at 9:00 a.m. by David Moore, Public Information Officer
With warmer weather and longer days now in Colorado, tens of thousands of people annually visit the water recreation areas in Larimer County during the summer. The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office offers the following suggestions when making plans to spend time near the water this summer:
- 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 (life jacket) for all river activities. Don’t assume you have the swimming skills to keep you 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, this force one in place remains constant.
- Check river and stream conditions before heading out.
- Avoid Dams. Small low-head dams are responsible for over 8% of river fatalities. 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: 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.
The Cache La Poudre River may run higher than average this time of year due to precipitation and snow melt. The river will fluctuate throughout the day depending on snow melt and precipitation. Current river conditions can be monitored at: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis.
The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office reminds everyone engaging in activities along the rivers to use extreme caution. Due to current water conditions, activities on all rivers in Larimer County are inherently dangerous. If you wish to experience the river in a recreational watercraft, we suggest contacting one of the many local commercial rafting companies as they have qualified instructors, safety equipment, trained staff, and emergency protocols in place. Recommended personal protection equipment includes a properly sized personal flotation device, a swift water helmet that allows water to drain from it, and a wetsuit when water temperatures are cold. Multi-chambered rafts are also recommended for use on the river. These extra measures decrease, but do not eliminate all the risks.