PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The summer heat arrived in Oregon and thousands of people will flock to the waters around the state to cool off.
But if you fall in the water unexpectedly and aren’t wearing a life jacket, you could suffer cold water shock. That’s where you can accidentally gasp water into your lungs — and that’s how most drowning in Oregon happen, officials with the Oregon State Marine Board said.
The first 60 seconds are the most crucial for survival in an unexpected plunge, especially in Oregon’s rapid rivers.
“Rivers are inherently dangerous and they’re also very dynamic. They’re always changing,” said OSMB’s Ashely Massey. “So if you’re floating, say, the North Santiam one day and going back the following weekend, there could be a gravel bar that wasn’t there the week before. There could be a downed tree that wasn’t there before and all of that shapes the way the river’s flowing.”
There is a resource if you’re planning on going to Oregon’s rivers — the Oregon Boating Obstructions Map. It’s updated with reports from guides that are floating the rivers all the time.
When swimming, boating or floating in open waters, the Oregon State Marine Board can’t stress enough that wearing a life jacket is like wearing your seat belt. Life jackets save lives and should always be worn.
Massey also said there are 1500 public access points to water throughout the state, and the heat is going make it busy.
“Expect crowds, be patient, plan that to be part of your experience,” she said. “Just take turns and take your time. Once you’re out on the water, it’s easy and you can easily spread out and, you know, go about your activities.”
It’s also importand for boaters to be patient and kind with one another at the boat ramp and offer to help anyone who might need help at the launch.
Once on the water, keep a sharp eye out for people in the water. She recommends having someone be a point person to help keep everyone safe.