LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Independence Day holiday is typically one of the three busiest weekends of the year at the region’s lakes and rivers, and this year, will likely be no exception with the long holiday weekend looming. It is a great time for outdoor water fun, but Army Corps of Engineers officials advise everyone to practice good water safety habits.
In addition, visitors should be aware that extra precautions are advised because of high water at some Little Rock District projects in Arkansas and Missouri.
A small craft advisory remains in effect on the Arkansas River until at least mid-July because of high flows. Pleasure boaters are advised to stay off the river. More rain could cause the advisory to remain in effect longer.
Also, 10 district lakes are still high because of spring flooding. These include Beaver, Table Rock, Bull Shoals, Norfork, Greers Ferry, Millwood, DeQueen, Gillham, Dierks, Nimrod and Blue Mountain. High lake levels can make boating more hazardous. Officials advise boaters and anglers to prepare for these conditions and use extra caution.
Always wear a life jacket and use the boat’s kill switch when boating. If you are on a lake that is higher than normal, slow down to watch for submerged debris. Use caution when launching because high water can make ramps tricky. Be patient if others take a little longer than normal. When boating near the shore or in coves, go slow to avoid underwater obstacles such as signposts, picnic tables, trees, stumps and other obstructions that are normally on dry ground.
Little Rock District park rangers urge everyone to obey boating laws. The rangers point out that more than half of all people who drown consume alcohol before their accident, so skip alcohol if you plan to be in or on the water. For any lake you visit, whether it is at normal levels or not, the rangers offer the following additional swimming and boating tips:
* Your best defense is to learn to swim.
* Never swim alone.
* Never rely on toys like inner tubes or water wings.
* When in doubt, wear a life jacket.
* Never dive into lakes and rivers from cliffs or ledges.
* Lakes are big; don’t overestimate your swimming skills.
* Swim only in designated areas.
* Watch your children -- have a “Designated Child Watcher.”
* Take a safe boating course.
* Check your tow vehicle, trailer and boat.
* Check all safety equipment.
* File a float plan with a friend.
* Check the weather before launching.
* Don’t swim for a boat that is drifting away; get another boater to retrieve it.
* Wear a life jacket.
* Post a sharp lookout and add even more care at night.