As temperatures continue to rise many area residents are beginning to take advantage of area lakes, ponds, rivers and streams in search of fishing holes or just to take in the scenery. Whatever the reason, a bit of preplanning and caution is advisable.
Operation of canoes and all watercraft differs greatly from ponds and lakes to rivers. Individuals must know how to adapt to the water currents.
According to Department of Natural Resources officer Gary Catron, the water current is often the most overlooked water hazard.
“Even though the river current may appear to be slow much of the time, it exerts a lot of force. A river current velocity of 6 mph exerts nearly 70 pounds of pressure to someone wading in the river,” Catron said earlier this year.
He went on to stay those figures increase greatly when the weight of a small, swamped boat are figured in.
“At the same velocity, nearly 700 pounds of pressure is pushing on a small, swamped boat,” he said.
Solid obstructions in rivers and streams, such as rocks and bridge pilings, are usually easily seen. However, being downside of a swamped boat and running into one of those solid obstructions could cause an individual to be pinned against the obstruction. For this reason, Catron and other DNR officers recommend that if you are in a swamped boat in a river, get to the upstream side of the watercraft.
Often the initial reaction when accidentally entering moving water is to stand up. This is a mistake. In a fast current the force can be strong enough to push and entrap one’s foot between rocks or other unseen object below the water’s surface.
If the water is deep enough and the person is unable to free himself, the results could be disastrous.
Hypothermia is a another often overlooked hazard.
According to Catron, the body’s temperature can be compromised even in typical spring temperatures.
“Water is capable of taking warmth away from the body 25 times faster that air of the same temperature. Moving water can increase the temperature change even quicker,” Catron said.
In spring, the water in area streams has not warmed substantially—for most of the year the water temperature is less than 70 degrees. People can die of hypothermia in 70-degree water if trapped for a period of time.
“Before venturing out onto rivers and streams, exercise preparedness. Be sure that personal flotation devices (PFD lifejackets) fit properly,” Catron said in conclusion.