DES MOINES, Iowa — The swamping of several watercraft Saturday during a pro-Trump boat parade on Lake Travis near Austin, Texas, points up the importance of boating safety for all of Iowa’s would-be sailors on Labor Day.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recommends all boaters heading out to a lake, river, pond or any other waterway should adhere to the following safety tips:
- Plan ahead, and avoid peak hours and large crowds of boating.
- Park your vehicles and trailers in designated parking spaces and not in grass areas, or they will be ticketed and towed.
- Alcohol and boating don’t mix. Wind, sun glare and heat can enhance the effects of alcohol, hindering the operator’s ability to make necessary decisions.
- The same limit of .08 for operating a vehicle under the influence applies to boating.
- Always have a designated operator who avoids consuming alcohol.
- Wear your life jacket. It floats, but you don’t! Any children 12 and under must wear a lifejacket at all times on a vessel underway in Iowa.
- Every boat or vessel must have a wearable life jacket for everyone on board. A USCG-approved throwable flotation device is also required on vessels 16’ or longer.
- Make sure there is a charged fire extinguisher on board as well as a horn or whistle.
- Slow down and watch for other boaters or personal watercraft. Have patience.
- Avoid dams and other hazards on waterways.
- Obey all posted warning signs and rules.
- Drain plugs and other water draining devices must be removed and/or remain open during transport to avoid spreading of invasive species.
When it comes to beaches and swimming safety, wherever you choose to swim this Labor Day weekend, whether it’s a backyard pool, a pond or lake, or a public pool, please follow these safety tips:
- Remember to keep young children at arm’s reach at all times. Arm’s-reach supervision means your child is no more than an arm’s reach at all times. Never, even for a moment, leave small children alone or in the care of another young child while swimming.
- Drowning is silent.
- Take swimming lessons ahead of time to learn to swim.
- Learn how to perform CPR.
- Avoid alcohol use while swimming.
- Alcohol is prohibited at some public beaches.
- Glass bottles are prohibited on beaches.
- Stay within the roped in area of the lake.
- Swim with a buddy.
- Obey posted signs and flags.
- Wear a life jacket or some kind of personal flotation device if needed.
- Use sunscreen and drink plenty of water as needed.
Iowa’s public beaches do not have lifeguards on duty. Because the beaches are busier this summer, staff are encouraging visitors to use the non-peak times and days.
For the busier beaches/parks, the non-peak days usually include Sundays through Thursdays, and Fridays before 5 p.m. If you plan to go to the beaches on Saturdays, the non-peak hours are usually before noon.
Whether you are tubing, kayaking or canoeing on Iowa’s rivers, rapids and streams, stay safe each time you paddle with these simple safety tips:
- With very low water levels, due to drought conditions, some waterways are not suitable for paddling, often leaving paddlers stranded. Be sure to check the latest river conditions before heading out.
- Always wear your life jacket. Kids 12 and under must wear a life jacket at all times. The vessel must have enough life jackets for all members on board.
- Let others know where you will be paddling, including what access to what access, and when you are expected to return.
- Avoid sandbar crowds and “rafting” up together. Tubers are reminded not to go in groups larger than 10 and don’t tie tubes to one another.
- Always know your river conditions before you go paddling.
- Check the Iowa DNR’s interactive paddler’s map for updates on real-time hazards like downed trees and log jams, strainers and bridge construction. Pay attention to the dam warning signs, and know where dams are located before you head out on the water.