By Danielle Chamberlain
Water, moving or not, is very dangerous. No one expects when they start a day on the river or lake that it may end badly, but it can happen.
According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Montana has seen 44 boating fatalities in the last seven years. Of these, 29 involved individuals not wearing life jackets.
Here are some tips to make sure your day on the water is safe:
1. WEAR A LIFE JACKET
Make sure to choose a proper life jacket that fits and is specific to your activity. For example, a water skiing life jacket will work great on a lake but not on a river.
2. LEAVE THE BOOZE AT HOME
Ron Jendro, FWP boating law administrator says, “Alcohol was the leading factor in 19 percent of the boating deaths reported in 2010 nationwide.”
3. AVOID STRAINERS
Strainers are large objects, like a tree, that are caught in fast moving water. These are dangerous because water can pass through, but objects the size of a human cannot.
4. DO NOT STAND UP IN FAST MOVING WATER
The bottoms of many Montana rivers are layered with rocks. If you stand up, there is a chance your leg can become stuck between rocks and your body will be forced underwater.
5. SCOUT RAPIDS
Always know what’s ahead and scout rapids. A good way to learn the river is to go on a raft trip with a local rafting company.
6. TAKE A SAFETY COURSE
Go to fwp.mt.gov for more information.
“Whether you are an operator or a passenger this July 4 weekend, avoid alcohol and always wear your life jacket,” says Jendro.
Danielle Chamberlain is a fifth-year raft guide at Geyser Whitewater.