Swimming, wading and playing in the water are great ways to cool off on hot summer days, but there also are ever-present risks in lakes and rivers. Swift currents, abrupt drop-offs and cold water all create dangers, even for experienced swimmers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 43 percent of drownings occur in rivers, lakes and other natural water bodies. Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths among children ages 1 to 4.
More than 1,500 children and teen-agers drown in the United State each year. In Washington state, an average of 25 children and teens drown each year.
Clark County Parks on the Columbia River, namely Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park and Captain William Clark Regional Park at Cottonwood Beach, are not safe for swimming because of strong currents and sudden drop-offs.
Swimming is allowed at several county parks, but only one park, Salmon Creek Regional Park-Klineline Pond, has certified lifeguards. Lifeguards are typically on duty at Klineline Pond from July 1 through Labor Day. For an added level of safety, Klineline Pond has a life jacket loaner station for children and adults.
There are several things all park users can do to improve water safety at county parks:
- Learn how to swim and never swim alone. Always practice the buddy system while in the water.
- Watch swimmers while in or near the water. Designate a responsible adult who can swim to watch those in the water, especially children.
- Use U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets, especially for children and adults who are not strong swimmers.
- Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation and basic first aid. These skills could save someone’s life.
- Obey posted rules that are in place for your protection.
- Know the setting and be aware of strong currents, drop-offs and other potential hazards.
- Never dive off of bridges and cliffs. Winter storms can shift underwater boulders, creating summer diving hazards where none existed the year before.