Warning for boaters: Remember that low river levels can be dangerous

Warning for boaters: Remember that low river levels can be dangerous
Photo courtesy art-sarah on Flickr (Creative Commons).

This is a press release courtesy of the Oregon Marine Board

Many were wearing life jackets. Many had experience. But low discharge and water flows are hanging up even the most experienced boaters on the Rogue River this season. It's been particularly rough on the Rogue with three out of five statewide fatalities occurring there since January, according to the Oregon State Marine Board.

"Even when the water levels are lower, the power and force of the current is so strong, that any lose clothing, lines, etc. -can easily get snagged between boulders, potentially holding a person hostage or worse, leading to drowning," says Deputy Ernie Fields from the Josephine County Marine Patrol.

Deputy Fields has been a marine law enforcement whitewater instructor for nearly a decade and has seen what the force of the rivers can do. "There are so many rocks and the water is so low -I haven't seen it this low in a long time," Fields adds.

The Oregon State Marine Board and marine law enforcement strongly urge boaters to take the following precautions:

  • Scout the river before running it. Rivers are dynamic, and don't stay the same over time. Boulders move, trees fall, and currents shift. When in doubt -scout and portage out.
  • Float toys such as air mattresses, inner tubes and inflatable rafts were not designed for use on rivers. They do not provide adequate flotation and puncture easily. It only takes one tree limb. These float toys are also less maneuverable and often lead boaters directly into strainers and other underwater hazards. If you're on a river, be in a well-constructed boat designed for white water use.
  • Wear a life jacket. All boaters are required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket when operating on Oregon rivers with Class III rapids or higher.
  • Boat with others and stay within sight of other companions.
  • Know your limits and how to self-rescue. Be sure your skills and experience are equal to the river and the conditions. If you're feeling tired and fatigued, find a place to pull off and rest.
  • Wear protective clothing for your hands, feet and head. Helmets are highly recommended in rapids with boulders.

Fields reminds boaters, "We want folks to have fun and create great memories, but be hyper-vigilant when it comes to your safety."