Editorial: Take care to enjoy water safely

Published Jun 1, 2014 at 12:01AM

Whether you’re fishing from the bank of the Crooked River or floating the Deschutes in Bend, rivers can be dangerous things. Too often, they can be downright deadly.

They needn’t be that way. While accidents do happen, most can be avoided with care.

Thus, if you’re floating the Deschutes in the city of Bend, you need to be aware of both the conditions and the rules.

While the water may look calm, the current beneath may be unexpectedly fast. Keep that in mind when approaching the Colorado bridge from the south. Safety requires floaters to get out of the water and portage around the dam just north of the bridge. Deaths here have been the result of failing to do just that.

This summer, the Bend Park & Recreation District will go to work creating a safer passage at the Colorado dam. The work will not interfere with summer river users.

As for the rules, inside the city there are at least a couple of hard-and-fast ones. Alcohol is prohibited on the river, and it’s illegal to jump or dive from the bridges across the river. Both are safety issues: Booze slows reaction time and impairs judgment, leading to accidents, and jumping from bridges into surprisingly shallow water can cause serious injuries.

The city and the park district work hard to ensure river safety, meanwhile. A park steward and a Bend policewoman will patrol the parks along the Deschutes this summer, for one thing. And the park district has contracted with Sun Country Tours to make life jackets available free to children under 12. The tour company also has advice to help you make a float both fun and safe.

Elsewhere, life jackets are required in boats on all Oregon waterways, one per person per boat. Even the best-designed jacket is useless, however, unless it is being worn. Those fishing from the river’s edge should be aware that conditions can be slippery, and falling into icy cold water, dangerous.

Tourists and Central Oregonians alike turn to the water for fun all summer long. Doing so safely makes return trips possible in succeeding years.