Oregon State Marine Board
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Is the Water Calling? Warm Air, Cold Water Means Be Ready

Every year the first heat wave brings water-related incidents, and many people find themselves in situations needing rescue. Right now, water levels on many rivers are running high with very strong currents. Winter landslides and soil saturation have added a lot of woody debris to area rivers in the Willamette Valley. Boaters must be vigilant by keeping a constant lookout by scanning from bank to bank throughout their trip. On moving water, this includes scouting ahead for obstructions, and not getting into water beyond your abilities. A great tool for trip planning is the Marine Board’s Obstructions Map. Reported obstructions are listed along with recommendations on the safest navigation path.

“If you intend to recreate on Oregon’s waters over the next few days, drink plenty of water, get the right gear for the water conditions, wear your lifejacket and pay attention to your surroundings,” says Brian Paulsen, Boating Safety Program Manager for the Oregon State Marine Board. “Cold water doesn’t discriminate and impacts everyone the same way. Plan on getting wet and wear a life jacket so you can buy yourself time to get out of any challenging situations.” Cold water immersion will cause blood to move away from a person’s arms and legs, which leads to cramping; often if a life jacket isn’t worn, a person isn’t able to self-rescue. The initial shock also causes an involuntary gasp reflex for air and can lead to inhaling water if a person is not wearing a life jacket.

In 2023, there were 13 recreational boating fatalities and of them, 11 victims were not wearing life jackets. Three of the 13 victims were solo operators. Seven victims were passengers and six were boat operators. Seven involved paddlecraft (including one sailboat under wind power) and six involved motorized boats. Many of these deaths were preventable.

For more information about equipment requirements, rules of the road for paddlecraft and motorized boats, and boating laws and rules, visit Boat.Oregon.gov.


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