IOWA — The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has some tips and reminders for being safe on the waters of Iowa this holiday weekend.

Stay safe paddling this 4th of July holiday and weekend

Some Iowa streams are still swollen and swift after a rainy end of June. While some rivers remain dangerously high, others have dropped to safe levels for paddlers.

“High rivers are super powerful and have unpredictable current along with numerous deadly river hazards,” said Todd Robertson, paddling instructor and Outreach Coordinator for Rivers Programs at the Iowa DNR. “Piles of trees and branches can suck a paddler in and under with little chance of escape.”

The Iowa DNR learned of a kayaking fatality on the South Skunk River last weekend. Stay safe this holiday weekend and each time you paddle with these simple safety tips.

Always wear your life jacket. Kids 12 and under must wear a life jacket at all times when underway on a recreational vessel on any Iowa water. It’s also law that those 13 and over, if not wearing their life jacket, must have a life jacket on board their vessel. “It’s best to wear your life jacket, not just store it on board,” encourages Robertson. “If you are not wearing your life jacket, it probably won’t be there when you really need it.”

Tell a friend or loved one where you will be paddling, including what access to what access, and when you are expected to return. It will be easier to find you if you need help.

Always know your rivers conditions before you go paddling. For the latest river conditions, visit the USGS site for Iowa streamflow readings at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/ia/nwis/current/?type=flow. You can also call the local county conservation board where the river flows through and ask for an update.

Check the Iowa DNR’s interactive paddlers map for updates on real-time hazards like downed trees and log jams, strainers and bridge construction: https://www.iowadnr.gov/Things-to-Do/Canoeing-Kayaking/Where-to-Paddle

DNR Conservation Officers on the lookout for intoxicated boat operators

DES MOINES - State, federal and local law enforcement agencies will be focusing on the boating while intoxicated law as part of the national Operation Dry Water campaign to draw public attention to the hazards of boating under the influence.

Iowa DNR Conservation Officers will be heavily patrolling Iowa waterways over the Fourth of July holiday and during the Operation Dry Water campaign, July 5 – 7. The DNR will be conducting heightened awareness and enforcement of boating under the influence laws in hopes to decrease the number of crashes, causing injuries and deaths and remove any impaired boat operators, providing a safe and enjoyable experience for boaters this season.

“The effects of alcohol can be intensified when combined with wind and wave action and an extended time spent in the sun. Operators may not think they are under the influence, but their judgment, reaction time, balance and vision indicate that they are,” said Susan Stocker, boating law administrator and education coordinator for the Iowa DNR.

Tips for staying safe on the water this summer:

• Boat sober. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boater deaths*. Alcohol and drug use impairs a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time.

• Wear your life jacket.

• Take a boating safety education course.

• Operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal on all navigable waters of the State and can lead to serious injuries and consequences. In Iowa, it is illegal to operate a vessel with a BAC level of .08 or higher - the same as it is to operate a vehicle. If you are found to be impaired and operating a boat you will face the consequences.

2018 top areas for BWI arrests

Saylorville Lake: 9

Okoboji: 6

Coralville: 5

Lake Manawa: 5

Total BWI: 38

2017 top areas for BWI arrests

Saylorville Lake: 10

Mississippi River: 5

Okoboji: 5

Lake Manawa: 3

Total BWI: 39

2016 top areas for BWI arrests

Saylorville Lake: 17

Coralville: 7

Mississippi River: 6

Wapsipinicon River: 4

Total BWI: 46

This press release was sent to the Herald.