By Dylan J. Darling

The Bulletin

Boating and floating season is upon us in Central Oregon, prompting tips on water safety from state officials.

Tip No. 1 is to wear a life jacket, not just have one in the boat, said Robert Smith in visitor safety training with the Oregon State Parks in Salem. “It is just better and safer to wear a life jacket in, on or around the water — especially for the young ones,” said Smith, who also warned boaters to be ready for chilly waters.

Memorial Day weekend is typically the start of boating and floating season around the state, said Ashley Massey, with the Oregon State Marine Board in Salem.

“This is when people are primed and ready to hit the water,” she said.

Like Smith, Massey started her list of tips with a life jacket. “We really advocate everyone wear a life jacket,” Massey said.

She also recommended people bring a whistle — it’s small, and its sound carries well over water — to put out an alarm in case they fall overboard.

There weren’t any drownings in Central Oregon waters in 2013, according to data from the Oregon State Marine Board, but there were three in 2012 — two at Lake Billy Chinook and one at Lava Island Falls along the Deschutes River.

Before heading to a lake or river, people should take the time to inspect their equipment, Smith said. And Massey said they should pass on information to someone else not headed to the water.

“Have a float plan,” she said. “Tell people where you are going and when you expect to come back.”

Massey recommended people visit an online map maintained by the Marine Board showing where boaters can put in and pull out, where they can find marinas and other information.

People driving boats should also avoid drinking alcohol, cautioned Chris Havel, Oregon State Parks spokesman in Salem.

“Don’t do anything in a boat that you wouldn’t do in a car,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812,