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home : sports / outdoors : sports/outdoors Monday, March 25, 2019

7/9/2017 10:16:00 AM Email this articlePrint this article 
Get Out On The Water, But Stay Safe Doing It

By Harland Hiemstra

Kao Thao, a Fort Snelling State Park naturalist, teaching fishing to a little boy.
In the heat of a Minnesota summer, nothing's quite as satisfying as being on, in, or close to the water. Children naturally gravitate to water - toddlers especially are transfixed by sparkly moving waves. And with more than 10,000 lakes and hundreds of miles of rivers and streams, Minnesota is as good as it gets for water-based recreation.

Whether it's boating, swimming, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, or just splashing around at the water's edge, you don't have to go far to find someplace to enjoy the state's famous "sky blue waters." But just as you wouldn't start up the car for a family outing without first making sure everyone is buckled in with seat belts, you should make water safety your first priority (followed, of course, by fun).

Hitting the beach is a great way to cool down on a hot summer day. But remember that even if there's a lifeguard on duty, children need to be under constant supervision - constant. Rivers, with their shifting bottoms and changing currents, can be dangerous even for experienced swimmers. If you're unsure of your swimming ability, don't take a foolish chance - wear a life jacket.

Life jackets are essential equipment when out on the water in a canoe, kayak or boat, too. Minnesota law requires that you provide one U.S. Coast Guard approved, properly sized, and easily accessible life jacket for each person on the boat. Children under ten are required to wear their life jacket at all times while in a boat, and it's recommended that others do the same.

And for the guys who think wearing a life jacket isn't "manly," take note of the fact that men between the ages of 20 and 60 who weren't wearing life jackets make up the majority of Minnesota drowning victims. If you wise up, you could live much longer.

Finally, while whiskey and water might make a refreshing and relaxing cocktail at the end of a long workday, alcohol and any kind of on-the-water recreation are a risky mix. Some research suggests that between a quarter and a half of all adolescent and adult drowning deaths are alcohol related. So save the fermented beverages until you're back home after a day of family fun on the water.

And fun is what it's all about. Minnesota state parks are home to hundreds of lakes and beaches that provide a safe, enjoyable swimming experience for all ages. Many state parks provide opportunity to rent canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. A few even offer rentals of boats and motors.

So this summer, get wet, cool off, but stay safe doing it! Keep an eye on the kids, especially the toddlers. Wear your life jacket when you're in a boat. Find more information about recreational opportunities, as well as boat and water safety, at www.mndnr.gov.

St. Paul, MN



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