In Northern Colorado, outdoor recreation is a part of many families’ lifestyles, and enjoying Poudre River and Horsetooth Reservoir are favorite spots for activities. While they’re a great way to enjoy an afternoon, parents should be familiar with open water safety to protect children.
Children above the age of five are more likely to drown in natural water, such as a lake or a river, than in a pool, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. Two thirds of those deaths occur between May and August. Even strong swimmers can struggle in natural water, so parents should be aware of the hazards associated with open water.
- Hypothermia: Even on hot days runoff can be chilly enough to be harmful. In standing water such as lakes, water temperatures in water under the top 12-18 inches can still be extremely cold. Be wary of cold-related issues such as hypothermia or cramping when enjoying open water.
- Mind Your Footing: Walking in a pool is simple because of its flat, stable surface, natural bodies of water are far more unpredictable. Rocks in riverbeds are uneven, often unstable, and sometimes slippery, while debris such as stumps, water plants or garbage can make wading in rivers and ponds treacherous.
- Current: Colorado’s open water doesn’t feature the threat of tides, but water currents can still be deadly. River currents, swiftest in the spring and early summer, can make even relatively shallow rivers dangerous to experienced swimmers.
- Drop-Offs: A particular danger for children with poor swimming abilities, drop-offs can transform a stroll through waist-deep water into dangerous depths in just a step.
- Exhaustion: Even strong swimmers can bite off more than they can chew in natural waters. Distances are often greater than they appear outdoors, and currents can challenge even competitive swimmers.
Keep your family safe in the outdoors by minding basic open water safety measures. Respect “no swimming” signs, and stick to established swimming areas when you venture into the water. Wear properly fitted personal flotation devices for all river activities, even wading. Stick to maintained trails next to rapids, and avoid wading upstream from waterfalls.