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Water Safety

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District, wants its visitors to practice good "water safety" while boating, fishing or swimming. This page offers essential information for having safe and enjoyable recreational experiences on the reservoirs and waterways we manage.

For more information

Call us: 503-808-4510

Email us about Water Safety

Drowning is a silent killer

About 60 percent of all drownings aren't recognized because people can’t identify the four signs of drowning:

  • head back (bobs up and down above/below the surface) 
  • mouth open 
  • no sound
  • arms outstretched, moving simultaneously in an above-the-water, up-and-down stroke that appears as if the victim is slapping or playing in the water

Click here to read "Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning" by Mario Vittone.

How HELP works

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Cold-water immersion is the cause of many boating-related fatalities. The danger increases as water temperature decreases below normal body temperature (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Cold-water immersion follows four stages: starting with cold shock, followed by swimming failure, then hypothermia and finally post-rescue collapse.

Most cold-water drowning fatalities are attributed to the first two stages, not hypothermia. All boaters should wear a life jacket and dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature.

If self-rescue is not possible, start actions to minimize heat loss by remaining as still as possible in the Heat Escape Lessening Position, with your knees drawn up to your chest with your arms grasping them together or simply huddling with your arms around other survivors in a circle. Additional layers of clothing can help you stay afloat by trapping air. Wet clothes will not weigh you down in the water as many people perceive, because water does not weigh more than water.

Find a report on cold-water immersion at http://go.usa.gov/24G3.

Check the weather

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Click here to expand contentClick here to collapse content  Before setting out, obtain the latest marine forecast and warning information at www.weather.gov/marine

Before you go out on the water, get the forecast and don a life vest. Click here for the YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKR9Vk5lftc&feature=youtu.be This video outlines the importance of accurate and up-to-date marine weather forecasts before venturing out.

 

Understanding marine forecasts is critical to safe boating. Weather and wave conditions can change suddenly, catching boaters off-guard and creating life-threatening conditions. Before setting out, obtain the latest marine forecast and warning information from www.weather.gov/marine or NOAA Weather Radio. Begin listening for extended outlooks with general information for the next five days, offered in both graphical and text formats.

Water safety images

Borrow a life jacket

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A life jacket loaner stationIf you've forgotten your life jacket, borrow ours! An adult can drown in 60 seconds, but it can take 10 minutes for a strong swimmer to put on a life jacket while in the water (more at www.pfdma.org/). The life jackets we loan are essential safety equipment for visitors to our recreation areas, so return them when you're done. Our life jacket loaner stations are listed below.

 

Willamette Valley Life Jacket Loaner Board Locations

Fern Ridge Lake

Richardson Park

(Lane County Parks)

Boat ramp

Approximately 14 miles west of Eugene, off Clear Lake Road at 25950 Richardson Park Rd., Junction City, Ore.

 Cottage Grove Lake

Pine Meadows Campground

Swim beach

Approximately 9 miles south of Cottage Grove at 75166 Cottage Grove Reservoir Rd., Cottage Grove, Ore.

Lakeside Park

Boat ramp

Approximately 6 miles south of Cottage Grove, Ore., off London Rd. 

Wilson Creek Park

Swim beach

Approximately 10 miles south of Cottage Grove, Ore., off Cottage Grove Reservoir Rd.

 Dorena Lake

Schwarz Campground

Near campground entrance bulletin board

Approximately 5 miles east of the city of Cottage Grove at 34909 Shoreview Dr., Cottage Grove, Ore.

Baker Bay Campground

(Lane County Parks)

Boat ramp

Approximately 7 miles east of the city of Cottage Grove at 35635 Shoreview Dr., Dorena, Ore.

 Dexter Lake

Lowell Park

(Oregon State Parks)

Boat ramp and marina

Approximately 20 miles southeast of Eugene at 850 N. Shore Dr., Lowell, Ore. (about 1 mile west of Lowell).

Fall Creek

Cascara Campground

(Oregon State Parks)

Boat ramp

Approximately 30 miles southeast of Eugene, Ore., off Peninsula Rd. 

Detroit Lake

Mongold Day Use Area

(Oregon State Parks)

Boat ramp

Approximately 45 miles east of Salem, Ore., off Hwy. 22.



Rogue River Basin Life Jacket Loaner Board Locations

Lost Creek Lake



Joseph H. Stewart State Park

Boat ramp

35 miles northeast of Medford on Oregon State Hwy 62, approximately 12 miles from Trail, Ore.

Takelma Park

Boat ramp

3970 Rogue River Dr., Shady Cove, Ore., 19 miles northeast of Medford via Oregon State Hwy. 62. Turn left on Hwy. 234, turn right on Rogue River Dr. and continue for 3 miles north of Dodge Bridge.

 

Bonneville Lock & Dam / Lake Bonneville

Bonneville Lock and Dam, Washington Shore

(managed by USACE)

Hamilton Island boat ramp

Approximately 1 mile west of Bonneville Lock and Dam and 1 mile east of town of North Bonneville on Washington State Route 14. Turn onto the Dam Access Road towards the river, go about ¾ mile to left at boat ramp signed intersection. The loaner board is at the lot’s eastern end.

Hood River Waterfront Park

(managed by Port of Hood River)

Day use area swim beach

Hood River Waterfront Park is located at exit 63 (Hood River/City Center) off of Interstate 84, approximately 20 miles West of the City of The Dalles.  At exit 63 turn North toward the river and East on Portway Avenue.  Loaner board is located at the swim beach.

Mayer State Park

(managed by Oregon State Parks)

Boat ramp

Mayer State Park is at exit 76 off of Interstate 84, approximately 10 miles west of the city of The Dalles.  Turn north toward the river and then west (left) to get to the boat ramp.

John Day Lock & Dam / Lake Umatilla

Plymouth Park

(managed by USACE)

Day use area swim beach and boat ramp

Columbia River Mile 290, North River Bank.  In Plymouth, Wash., 1.2 miles west of Umatilla Bridge.

LePage Park

(managed by USACE)

Day use area swim beach and boat ramp

Park located off Exit 114, Interstate 84, at confluence of John Day and Columbia Rivers, south bank of river; 5 miles from Rufus, Ore. and John Day Dam.

The Dalles Lock & Dam/Lake Celilo

The Dalles Marina

(managed by Port of The Dalles)

Boat ramp

From Interstate 84, take exit 86 toward City Center / The Dalles and turn north toward the river. The marina is on the left and the loaner board is at the boat ramp. 

The Dalles Riverfront Park

(managed by North Wasco Co. Parks and Recreation)

Day use area swim beach

From Interstate 84, take exit 86 toward City Center / The Dalles and turn north toward the river. Park will be on the right and the loaner board is located just east of the Kayak Shack near the swim beach.

Columbia Hills State Park

(managed by Washington State Parks)

Boat ramp

From The Dalles, at mile marker 85 (approximately 5 miles northeast and one mile east from the intersection of highways 97 and 14).

Celilo Park

(managed by USACE)

Boat ramp

From Interstate 84 take exit 97 and turn North toward the river. Turn left into Celilo Park and the loaner board is at the western end of the park.

Heritage Landing

(managed by Oregon State Parks)

Boat ramp

Heritage Landing is approximately 17 miles East from the City of The Dalles.  From Interstate 84 take exit 97 and turn South.  At the stop sign turn east (left) onto old highway OR-206 E / ​Celilo-Wasco Hwy. Continue approximately 3 miles and turn North onto Old Moody Road / CO Hwy 143.

Maryhill State Park

(managed by Oregon State Parks)

Day use area swim beach

From Interstate 84, take exit 104 and cross the Biggs Bridge at Highway 97. Traveling north into Washington, turn right at the entrance sign just past Maryhill Fruit Stand.  From Washington Highway 14, turn south onto Highway 97 and the entrance sign will be on your left just before Maryhill Fruit Stand. The loaner board is at the eastern end of the park, at the boat ramp.


Bonneville Lock & Dam / Lake Bonneville

Bonneville Lock and Dam, Washington Shore

(managed by USACE)

Hamilton Island boat ramp

Approximately 1 mile west of Bonneville Lock and Dam and 1 mile east of town of North Bonneville on Washington State Route 14. Turn onto the Dam Access Road towards the river, go about ¾ mile to left at boat ramp signed intersection. The loaner board is at the lot’s eastern end.

Hood River Waterfront Park

(managed by Port of Hood River)

Day use area swim beach

Hood River Waterfront Park is located at exit 63 (Hood River/City Center) off of Interstate 84, approximately 20 miles West of the City of The Dalles.  At exit 63 turn North toward the river and East on Portway Avenue.  Loaner board is located at the swim beach.

Mayer State Park

(managed by Oregon State Parks)

Boat ramp

Mayer State Park is at exit 76 off of Interstate 84, approximately 10 miles west of the city of The Dalles.  Turn north toward the river and then west (left) to get to the boat ramp.

John Day Lock & Dam / Lake Umatilla

Plymouth Park

(managed by USACE)

Day use area swim beach and boat ramp

Columbia River Mile 290, North River Bank.  In Plymouth, Wash., 1.2 miles west of Umatilla Bridge.

LePage Park

(managed by USACE)

Day use area swim beach and boat ramp

Park located off Exit 114, Interstate 84, at confluence of John Day and Columbia Rivers, south bank of river; 5 miles from Rufus, Ore. and John Day Dam.

The Dalles Lock & Dam/Lake Celilo

The Dalles Marina

(managed by Port of The Dalles)

Boat ramp

From Interstate 84, take exit 86 toward City Center / The Dalles and turn north toward the river. The marina is on the left and the loaner board is at the boat ramp. 

The Dalles Riverfront Park

(managed by North Wasco Co. Parks and Recreation)

Day use area swim beach

From Interstate 84, take exit 86 toward City Center / The Dalles and turn north toward the river. Park will be on the right and the loaner board is located just east of the Kayak Shack near the swim beach.

Columbia Hills State Park

(managed by Washington State Parks)

Boat ramp

From The Dalles, at mile marker 85 (approximately 5 miles northeast and one mile east from the intersection of highways 97 and 14).

Celilo Park

(managed by USACE)

Boat ramp

From Interstate 84 take exit 97 and turn North toward the river. Turn left into Celilo Park and the loaner board is at the western end of the park.

Heritage Landing

(managed by Oregon State Parks)

Boat ramp

Heritage Landing is approximately 17 miles East from the City of The Dalles.  From Interstate 84 take exit 97 and turn South.  At the stop sign turn east (left) onto old highway OR-206 E / ​Celilo-Wasco Hwy. Continue approximately 3 miles and turn North onto Old Moody Road / CO Hwy 143.

Maryhill State Park

(managed by Oregon State Parks)

Day use area swim beach

From Interstate 84, take exit 104 and cross the Biggs Bridge at Highway 97. Traveling north into Washington, turn right at the entrance sign just past Maryhill Fruit Stand.  From Washington Highway 14, turn south onto Highway 97 and the entrance sign will be on your left just before Maryhill Fruit Stand. The loaner board is at the eastern end of the park, at the boat ramp.

Lost Creek Lake



Joseph H. Stewart State Park

Boat ramp

Approximately 12 miles from Trail, Ore., on Oregon State Hwy. 62, 35 miles northeast of Medford.

Takelma Park

Boat ramp

At 3970 Rogue River Dr., Shady Cove, Ore., 19 miles northeast of Medford via Oregon State Hwy. 62. Turn left on Hwy 234, turn right on Rogue River Dr., and continue for 3 miles north of Dodge Bridge.

 

Fern Ridge Lake

Richardson Park

(Lane County Parks)



Boat ramp

Approximately 14 miles west of Eugene, off Clear Lake Rd. at 25950 Richardson Park Rd., Junction City, Ore.

 Cottage Grove Lake

Pine Meadows Campground



Swim beach

Approximately 9 miles south of the city of Cottage Grove at 75166 Cottage Grove Reservoir Rd., Cottage Grove, Ore.

Lakeside Park



Boat ramp

Approximately 6 miles south of the city of Cottage Grove, Ore., off London Rd. 

Wilson Creek Park



Swim beach

Approximately 10 miles south of the City of Cottage Grove, Ore., off Cottage Grove Reservoir Rd.

 Dorena Lake

Schwarz Campground

Near bulletin board at the campground entrance

Approximately 5 miles east of the city of Cottage Grove at 34909 Shoreview Dr., Cottage Grove, Ore.

Baker Bay Campground

(Lane County Parks)

Boat ramp

Approximately 7 miles east of the city of Cottage Grove at 35635 Shoreview Dr., Dorena, Ore.

 Dexter Lake

Lowell Park

(Oregon State Parks)

Boat ramp and marina

Approximately 20 miles southeast of Eugene at 850 N. Shore Dr., Lowell, Ore. (about 1 mile west of Lowell).

Fall Creek

Cascara Campground

(Oregon State Parks)



Boat ramp

Approximately 30 miles southeast of Eugene, Ore., off Peninsula Rd. 

Detroit Lake

Mongold Day Use Area

(Oregon State Parks)



Boat ramp

Approximately 45 miles east of Salem, Ore., off Hwy. 22.

Some life jacket loan stations are only available seasonally; contact each site's managing agency for detailed dates of availability outside of the summer recreation season.

Watch your children!

Bobber logo--animated to flipEach year about 200 children drown in the U.S. and several thousand others are treated in hospitals for submersion accidents—accidents which leave children with permanent brain damage and respiratory health problems.


Children have a natural curiosity and attraction to water but remember, it only takes a few seconds for a small child to wander away and as little as 8 seconds for a child to drown. Watch your children at all times when in and around the water and ensure everyone wears a properly fitting life jacket.


Bobber's website, http://www.bobber.info, has coloring pages, bookmarks and other resources for children to learn about water safety. For new content, visit the site, click "Enter" and then "New" on Waterbowl Lake's bulletin board on the right.

Adult males are at the highest risk for drowning

For more information, visit: www.CorpsLakes.us/AreYouNext

"Gentlemen, I need you to man up and just wear your life jacket!"

In the video linked below, Maj. Gen. Walsh explains the importance of water safety.

Lost on the Lake

Lost on the Lake: a powerful testimonial  In this seven-minute video, Craig Keese explains the impact of losing his son and grandson, who weren't wearing life jackets while boating. Re-creations show that tragic day and the subsequent search for Brian and Nathan.

 

This video, intended for mature audiences, is on our Water Safety YouTube channel and downloadable from DVIDS (for these and more, click the links below or the image at right):

 

Boating safety

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You are responsible for any damage that your vessel or your wake causes. Be cautious and aware of your surroundings at all times. Obey all signs and posted restrictions. Irresponsible actions of boat operators usually lead to accidents, so boat responsibly.
Learn tips that can help save your life in unexpected situations by taking a National Association of Boating Law Administrators-approved boating safety course. Many insurance companies offer discounts to boating safety course graduates. In addition, many states require a boating class for operators under a certain age. These are offered by the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadron, state agencies, and on-line.
CO is a colorless, odorless gas that can harm and even kill you while you are inside or swimming outside of a boat. CO is lighter than water so it invisibly hovers on the water’s surface. Prevent the unexpected by learning more about where CO may accumulate and CO poisoning symptoms.

Standing up in your boat can increase the risk of an unexpected fall overboard while your boat is underway, adrift or at anchor. Many falls overboard result in death. Increase your chance of survival by wearing your life jacket!

Before every trip you should perform a safety check of your vessel. It is your responsibility to make sure you have all the required equipment on board such as life jackets, throwable device, certificate of number (state registration), fire extinguisher, visual distress signals, sound producing devices and whatever additional items Federal and your state’s laws require. Check your engine, ventilation, backfire flame arrestor, electrical systems and trailer before you go. Take advantage of free vessel safety checks offered in your area by boating-related agencies. See Federal Boating Requirements at http://nyss.com/federal.
When underwater and under the influence of alcohol or drugs you can suffer from an inner ear condition (caloric labyrinthitis) that causes disorientation and you won’t know which way is up. Boaters can develop “boater’s hypnosis” a condition in response to sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion that causes fatigue and slows your reaction time. Combining that condition with alcohol or drugs greatly reduces your coordination, judgment and reaction time, which could lead to deadly consequences.

Many drowning victims are within 10 feet of safety, having unintentionally entered the water. You should never go near anybody struggling to stay afloat because you could drown too! Extend a pole, stick, line or clothing to reach them or throw something floatable to them. The "Reach, Throw, Row, Go for Help" rescue method is used to avoid multiple drownings. www.army.mil/article/51402/reach-throw-row-dont-go.

Commercial vessels have to stay within the navigation channel on rivers. An average towboat pushing barges can take ¾ to 1½ miles to come to a stop. If you can’t see the pilot, he or she can’t see you, because a commercial pilot’s blind spot can extend for several hundred feet to the front and sides of the vessel. Click here to learn more about how to properly lock through.
Your child to reach overboard or turn the boat key to see what might happen so be alert. It can take less than 10 seconds for a child to drown so always make them wear a life jacket and never take your eyes off them around water.

Safe swimming

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There is no substitute for a life jacket, especially if you are a weak or non-swimmer. Inflatable toys like water wings are not dependable to keep children afloat and can deflate in seconds. Inflatable rafts or inner tubes can easily float into deep waters and might slip away from you or your child unexpectedly. The consequences could be fatal.
Regardless of how well you swim, you could have to fight for your life if you meet up with unexpected conditions such as waves, current or exhaustion. A fellow swimmer can help you out when you encounter the unexpected. Remember your swimming abilities are likely to decrease with age so don’t overdo it.
Open water situations where water depth is unknown and conditions are constantly changing with floating or underwater debris, can be very dangerous. You never know what might lie unseen so only dive in the deep end of a swimming pool.

Besides wearing a life jacket, learning to swim well is one of your best defenses against drowning. Also, teach those you love and practice simple survival floating skills; remembering how to relax and float when exhausted can save your life. Swimming in natural or open waters is not the same as swimming in a pool. The USA Swimming Foundation works with local partners to offer free swimming lessons. Find a location near you at http://swimfoundation.org/Page.aspx?pid=347.

Many times accidents, injuries and fatalities could have been prevented if the victim followed the posted signs or buoys. Eighty percent of those who drown while swimming are outside of a designated swim area. Swimming within the buoys marking designated swim areas is the safest place, especially where rescue equipment or lifeguards are located. Remember, you swim at your own risk on Corps-managed waters because lifeguards are not present.

Coastal jetty safety

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Jetties were constructed to aid ships traveling between rivers and the ocean, and were never intended to be used for recreational purposes.

Just as bridges provide safe passage over rivers, gorges or other depressions, jetties help ocean-going vessels move between coastal rivers and the Pacific Ocean. Simply put, jetties are rock fingers that stretch out into the ocean from the beaches, essentially extending the mouths of the rivers well into the sea.

 

Jetty construction starts with a bed of rocks being placed on the ocean floor. Larger boulders are placed on top of this bed to form the main body of the jetty. Progressively larger boulders are added in layers to form the outer “armor” shell of the structure. The largest of the boulders (weighing 30 tons to 50 tons each) are used toward the jetty’s seaward end where wave action is most powerful and overtopping waves are common. Despite their massive weight, strong waves and ocean currents can cause these stones to shift with seemingly little effort.

Waves remove or shift even the largest boulders from the jetties, but underwater currents – which penetrate the structure – remove smaller rocks and sand from the inside of the jetty. And that can create dangers–some visible, others hidden: 

  • Sudden larger waves, even in calm weather, can knock a person off balance or into the water

  • Waves and strong currents near the jetty can prevent safe recovery after a fall into the water

  • Open crevasses and sinkholes between large boulders create stepping hazards

  • Slippery rock surfaces caused by sea spray

Caverns within the structure (caused by the eroding of stones and sand) could be hidden below a thin surface that can collapse.
Rip currents are powerful flows of water that pull you away from the shore, even if you are a strong swimmer. These can occur in any body of water with breaking waves, including the Great Lakes. Swimming or even wading can turn into a tragedy if you don’t know how to identify and respond to rip currents. These are identified by water that is discolored, unusually choppy, foamy or filled with debris. If you are caught in a rip current, it is important to stay calm and not panic. These are usually narrow currents and swimming parallel to the shore should get you out of them. Once out of the current, swim toward the shore. www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov/overview.shtml.