Boating Safety Reminders With High Water, Debris

Winter storms and high water also mean that you can count on downed trees creating obstructions to navigation on our statewide “liquid highways.”  The Marine Board wants to remind boaters about key safety measures when the water is high and full of debris:

  • High water can impact the visibility of aids to navigation (ATONs) and other waterway markers. Please use aids with caution.
  • Scout river runs and have a float plan.  Make sure family and friends know where you’re boating and when you expect to return. 
  • Make sure all of your equipment and emergency gear is good condition.  Mechanical issues contribute to accidents and lack of communication equipment such as a VHF-marine radio, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), or even cell phone can lead to timely delays if rescue is needed.
  • Extreme caution should also be taken during launching and retrieving due to high volumes of marine debris (logs, strainers, garbage, etc.).  Boaters need to start out slow and keep an extra sharp lookout for floating and partially submerged debris to avoid damaging their boats.  Look for subtle changed in the water’s surface and the water dynamics ahead.  Be prepared to portage around log jams. 
  • Currents are also very strong, adding to the complexity of wind or tide impacts to the movement of your boat. Anchoring is particularly challenging with a strong current. Always anchor from the bow and have the rode (length of the line and chain) between 7-10 times the water depth.  More rode is required right now, so factor in a few more feet.  Pick a spot upwind, allowing for drift. When the anchor hits bottom, remember to give a solid pull to set the anchor, and then secure the line to a bow cleat. 
  • Don’t boat alone. The river conditions require extra hands and extra lookouts.
  • Dress for the water conditions, not the air temperature. The waterways are cold with fresh snow melt.  Falling overboard will cause an immediate gasp reflex and cold water shock.  It’s easy to take in water to the lungs. Wear a life jacket on the outside of your clothing.  A life jacket will help keep you warm and keep your head above the water.

“Proper prior planning” leads to a safe and enjoyable boating experience.

Find out where there are reported navigation obstructions at

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