With summer around the corner, state officials and local authorities are cautioning residents that negligence, insufficient swimming skills and alcohol can quickly turn water recreation hazardous and even fatal.
"Most drowning happens in open bodies of water," said Barbara Bailey, an injury prevention specialist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. "I think that most people are not aware of that fact."
Last year, there were 29 drowning deaths in Colorado. In the United States, roughly 1,000 children under the age of 14 drown each year. Some 30,000 more are transported to emergency rooms as the result of severe water-submersion incidents.
Bailey said many such accidents involving children could be avoided.
"A big part of the problem is inattentive parents," Baily said. "Parents need to keep on eye on their children. Also, have children wear life jackets when they're around water."
Nick Kamzalow, owner of Outdoor Connections and a water enthusiast, said safety is often a matter of common sense.
"People get in trouble by not wearing life jackets," Kamzalow said. "People don't realize that when you have an accident that you're not expecting it and by then you're not going to have time to put a life jacket on. It's just like those kids that drowned up near the Hayden Bridge. They weren't wearing life jackets. They had them available, but figured they'd have time to put them on if something happened. Things happen so fast in an instant there you are trapped out there."
Bailey and Kamzalow said there are several issues to keep in mind with river recreation.
"With rivers, there is typically an undercurrent," Bailey said. "That undertow can pull you down stream in a hurry. There is a lot to be aware of in a river. Rocks get mossy and slippery. It's easy to trip and hit your head."
"Water in a river often looks clear and shallow," Kamzalow said. "But it's swift. To me, that's the biggest danger, and you don't see that until you walk out there. You've got to be aware of the current and the swiftness of the water. If you slip and fall, and you don't know how to swim, you're going to be swept down stream."
Bailey said alcohol is also frequently a major factor in water-related accidents.
"Unfortunately, alcohol is often times involved with water recreation," she said. "It should be avoided in or around water."
Kamzalow said when it comes to water recreation people often forget about the sun.
It is recommended people use sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or more. Sunlight is strongest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. People also should wear appropriate clothing for sun protection, including sunglasses and a hat.