River fanatics shouldn't underestimate water's risks

Anything can happen when Mother Nature is in charge. Despite summerlike conditions, many risks still exist for river fanatics.

"If you're not into big, high water, now is not the time to be on the river," Moffat County Sheriff Sgt. Tim Jantz said.

Just two weeks after a fatal rafting accident near Echo Park, water levels are high enough and flowing fast enough to be considered dangerous.

Jantz said the water level Monday in Maybell was very high -- twice as high as that typically suggested for recreational use -- and indicated that only experienced boaters should be on the water. He said canoeists should not float because of the conditions.

Along with the rapid current, the low water temperatures also pose a threat. As of Monday, the water temperature in Maybell was 43 F, Jantz said. Temperatures this low, accompanied by the water level, can lead to dangerous conditions for boats, kayaks, rafts and canoes. If a person falls into water this cold, his or her body becomes lethargic, and motions are limited, Jantz said.

Although the conditions are dangerous, Jantz said that if a person knows what they are doing, the river offers some of the best whitewater rafting around, but he cautioned that when dealing with water, people need to take the right precautions.

By simply knowing how to swim, people can protect themselves from objects in the water and get themselves to safety in an emergency, Jantz said. He also cautions rafters to know the capabilities of the equipment, the rapids and the people involved.

"You have to make sure your craft, ability and knowledge match," he said.

Personal floatation devices are critical. If not worn, they should be easily and readily available, Jantz said.

No matter what type of river excursion is planned, advising someone who is not on the trip of where you are going and when you expect to return is critical if a rescue is necessary.

"It's imperative for the safety of individuals on the water to let someone know where you put in and when you are planning to be back," Moffat County Sheriff's Department Sgt. K.C. Hume said. "This information helps law en--forcement and rescue teams. At the end of the day, we want everyone to go home safe."

Despite recommendations for water safety, Jantz said water is unpredictable, no matter how fast it's flowing or how cold it is "Anytime you're around water, never take it for granted," he said.

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