Water Activity Safety Tips

It's no surprise to anyone that Durango, Colorado has great places to play in the water. With the Gold Metals waters of the Animas River, Vallecito Reservoir, Lemon Reservoir, Lake Nighthorse, Haviland Lake, the La Plata River, and so many other bodies of water, Durango is a great place to get your feet wet this season!

Before you dive in (literally), we ask that you keep your health and safety in mind when playing in the water. No matter if you're kayaking, paddleboarding, rafting, or swimming from the beach, it's imperative that you stay safe!

Here are some things to keep in mind when indulging in Durango's water activities:

General Water Safety Tips

  • Pack out all trash including human waste and organic materials like peels
  • Please keep noise to a respectable level – for wildlife, nearby homeowners, and others enjoying the rivers or lakes
  • Know and be aware of river or lake “features” – both natural and man-made
  • Always consider the consequences before heading out
  • Be aware of your limitations and the limitations of your party members
  • Swimming or playing alone is not recommended
  • Know and respect the local weather conditions
  • Know and respect the high water and high flow levels of the river or lake you're going on
  • Wear and reapply sunscreen every two hours

Boating Safety Tips

  • Bring and wear a life jacket that fits your size and weight
  • Wear water or anti-slip shoes at all times to avoid slipping in and out of the boat
  • Check your equipment before launching
  • Know how to lawfully operate a boat in Colorado
  • Limit or abstain from alcohol consumption- especially if you're operating the boat
  • Obey "No Wake" zones or areas
  • Obey any posted speed limits
  • Watch upstream and downstream for other people- yielding and the right-of-way depends on the situation- use common sense and courtesy for passing and yielding to other people and/or vessels

Swimming Safety Tips

  • Watch out for symptoms of hypothermia including shivering, feeling tired, numbness around your lips, and confusion
  • Stay out of the water if you are taking medications or under the influence of alcohol
  • Check with a doctor if you are unsure about swimming in Durango's waters; they may have certain advisories for specific areas like lakes, rivers, and streams
  • Extend your time in the water gradually to avoid cramps or muscle soreness while cooling off

Rafting Safety Tips

  • Always wear a life jacket at all times while rafting
  • If you're navigating rapids, consider wearing a helmet
  • It is not uncommon for rafters to develop blisters on the chest or back from the rubbing of a life jacket; wear a shirt (avoid cotton at all costs) under your life jacket but on top of your swimsuit
  • Check with a doctor before rafting to see if you are qualified for the activity, and do not raft if you're at risk for an accident during rafting
  • Stay alert at all times and keep everyone within eyesight when you're out in swift waters
  • Limit or abstain from alcohol consumption altogether

Paddleboarding Safety Tips

  • Don't overexert yourself when paddleboarding- take frequent breaks
  • Keep your body cool by dipping part or your whole body into the water every hour
  • Keep your paddleboard's leash attached to your ankle at all times- it could save your life!
  • Watch upstream and downstream for other people- always keep to the right "side" of the river or lake

Kayaking or Canoeing Safety Tips

  • Always wear a life jacket at all times while kayaking or canoeing
  • Remember to tell someone your plan, which includes: where you're going, what you'll be doing, how long you expect to be gone, and how many people you're with- then stick with the plan
  • Beware of off-shore winds that make it difficult to return to shore
  • When kayaking or canoeing in a new area around Durango, learn about the currents, shoreline conditions, and weather patterns
  • Have an "escape" route - an alternative place to get off the water should environmental conditions dictate it
  • If possible, prepare for your kayaking or canoeing outing by first practicing in calm, shallow waters before venturing into more extreme conditions around Durango