Swift waters prompt safety reminder

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CANON CITY, Colo. –  Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Canon City officials want to remind people to stay safe this summer while enjoying the Arkansas River. High run-off from this winter’s snowpack combined with heavy spring rains have made for a high water year.

“We only see flows like this once every five years or so,” said Stew Pappenfort, Senior Ranger at the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. “It’s exciting, but for children and those unfamiliar with swift moving water the high flows can present significant hazards. People need to take extra caution in these conditions.”

Along with the high flows, comes colder water temperatures and more debris. The cold water can put you at risk for hypothermia and only those who are properly equipped should attempt to boat the river.

“At this water level only crafts that are designed for whitewater belong on the river. Pool toys, such as rafts and inner tubes, are not appropriate in these conditions,” said Pappenfort.

The warnings aren’t just for those playing in the water, but also along the waters’ edge, in places like Centennial Park in Canon City.

“We want to encourage parents to keep a close eye on their children. It only takes a split second for them to fall in and be swept downstream by the fast moving water,” said Rex Brady Director of Parks for the City of Canon City Park Department.

Water levels are expected to remain high for the next few weeks but caution near the water is always encouraged.

Here are a few additional water safety tips to keep in mind this summer:
– When participating in an outdoor activity, let people know where you are going and when you expect to return. Enjoy the activities with a friend or in a group.
– Watch children constantly when near the river banks. – Always wear your Personal Flotation Device (PFD) when on or near the water. In fact, this isn’t just a good idea; it’s the law for inner tubes and similar devices within the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. PFDs must be US Coast Guard approved.
– Approach all rivers with caution. Even shallow water can quickly sweep someone downstream.
– If you end up in the water, take a semi-seated position and try to swim to the bank, swimming upstream or diagonal to the water will quickly exhaust you.
– If swept away, never stand up in fast moving water. Swim to shore before standing to prevent your foot from being entrapped.
– In high water conditions do not attempt to float down the river on something that isn’t designed for swift/rapid waters. Use a  raft or kayak that is specifically designed for whitewater use.
– Utilize a commercial outfitter to enjoy the river at all water levels. River guides who work for commercial outfitters are properly equipped and trained to provide a safe experience.

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