With temperatures expected to be around 90 today and edging to within sight of triple digits on Sunday, crowds likely will be flocking to lakes and rivers around Central Oregon looking for a chance to cool off.
Although high-profile, recreational drownings have been rare, a handful of floaters, swimmers and boaters are killed every year in Central Oregon waters. Bend Deputy Fire Marshal Cindy Kettering said most accidents on the water are avoidable.
For river floaters, Kettering advises people to steer clear of cheap flotation devices.
“No pool toys,” she said. “Pool toys such as the flimsy air mattresses and the things people get out there on that are designed for still water like a swimming pool as opposed to a river with rocks and limbs and other things that could puncture it.”
River users need to know where they're going before they get into the water. Kettering said nearly every year, the fire department encounters a river floater who put in at Meadow Camp planning to float in to Bend, unaware of the sizable rapids they would encounter. Floaters or boaters should scout their route by land before launching.
Even on well-traveled routes like the Deschutes River float through Bend's Old Mill District, Kettering said people need to remain aware of their surroundings. Despite an abundance of warning signs advising floaters where to exit the river, nearly every year a few people end up going through the Colorado Dam spillway, Kettering said. Floaters went though the spillway at least twice last year, and in 2006, a woman was pulled though the spillway and killed.
Alcohol is a common factor in water accidents, Kettering said, and should be avoided by anyone planning on boating or floating.
While not legally required for most river floating, Kettering said a life jacket is still a good idea. Inflatables such as inner tubes that are bound together are considered boats under state law, she said, and users are required to carry one life jacket for every person aboard — the same rule that applies to canoes, ski boats, fishing boats and other craft. Children 12 and younger are required to wear a life jacket while on a boat.
“Whether you're a good swimmer or a poor swimmer or somewhere in between, anybody can get in trouble out there on the water, and a life jacket can be the difference between making it out and not,” she said.