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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Be safe while enjoying lakes and rivers in Oklahoma

STILLWATER, Okla. – Lots of Oklahomans will be heading to the lake to relax even as summer heats up before beginning the slow, annual slide into fall. Following some important safety measures while on the water will help ensure a fun, accident-free experience for everyone.

“No one is immune from potentially drowning, no matter how strong a swimmer they are and swimming in natural bodies of water isn’t the same as swimming in your pool at home,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist. “It takes a higher level of skill and more energy to swim in rivers and lakes because you have to manage conditions such as cold water and air temperature, currents and waves.”

In terms of basic precautions, families should only swim in areas clearly marked for that activity.

On the boat, everyone should wear a personal floatation device, or life jacket. In fact, according to Oklahoma Department of Public Safety boating safety requirements, all boats are required to carry one wearable, U.S. Coast Guard approved PFD for each person on board.

Also, anyone 12 years or younger on board boats less than 26 feet long must wear a PFD when the vessel is underway.

“PFDs should fit each person correctly and the buckles and straps on each one should be working properly,” Peek said. “You can check the label to confirm a PFD is U.S. Coast Guard approved.”

Meanwhile, before heading out, check the weather forecast and water conditions and monitor both regularly throughout the trip.

“Keep an eye on any unexpected shifts in the air or water temperature; fast moving currents, waves and rapids; and any hint of severe weather. Get out of the water immediately at the first signs of thunder and lightning,” Peek said.

Become familiar with any potential hazards in the area where the family is swimming, including dams, underwater obstacles and debris moving on top or on the bottom of the water.

Be aware of aquatic vegetation and animals, as well, that could get entangled in swimmers’ feet or may be living in and around the water.

In case of an emergency, make sure there is easy and quick access to safety equipment, such as reaching or throwing implements, a phone to call authorities for help, life jackets and a first aid kit.


Leilana McKindra
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
158 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-6792
Fax: 405-744-5739

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078