Iowa rivers are dynamic systems in a constant state of change and can hide obstacles just beneath the water surface. Todd Robertson, with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Water Trails Program, said river users can enjoy the scenery while keeping an eye downstream to avoid any hazardous surprises.
“We’ve had some reports of trees being blown over during the recent storms and blocking parts of different rivers. We would encourage paddlers and tubers to watch for fallen trees and other hazards that can pull you in and suck you under the water,” he said.
“This is the busy season for floating our rivers. When we have consistent hot weather, there is an increase in the number of paddlers and tubers and we want everyone to be mindful that our rivers are in a constant state of change.”
Robertson said there are a few tips to keep you safe on the river.
- Wear your life jacket: Life jackets, when properly fastened and cinched, have saved lives. Life jackets are mandatory for any child under 13 in any vessel underway in the state of Iowa.
- Know the weather forecast: Always get off the water if lightening is in the area.
- Recognize and avoid hazards: Most water incidents involve an obstruction – downed trees and branches create a “strainer” effect that can trap boats and people under water, sometimes leading to drowning. A bridge pier or boulder can get a boat pinned on its upstream side. Low-head dams can re-circulate, trap and drown victims. These hazards are most difficult to avoid at mid to high range flows.
- Consider your experience: Novice paddlers and tubers generally have less control as rivers get swifter, and should factor in more caution.
- Beat the heat: Dehydration, heat exhaustion stroke, and heat exhaustion can become serious problems in by mid-summer. Bring plenty of water on river trips, cool off periodically by getting yourself wet or swimming, use sunscreen, and for tubing or paddling trips make sure to choose shorter trips when the river’s flow is low.
- Set the example for your kids: Be vigilant with kids in rivers, make sure they wear their life jackets before getting in the water, and explain to them the other safety points on this list.
- Watch your kids: Even with a life jacket, be aware of common river hazards, and keep a watchful eye on kids in a river at all times, to help them avoid hazards such as woody debris and other objects, or low-head dams.
- Other factors: You can improve your odds by not consuming alcohol, considering weather factors, and being vigilant about what’s around the next bend.