Best boat behavior

Rangers instruct East Elementary students about reservoir and river safety

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Second-grader Elizabeth Weis got the chance to row a canoe, ride a raft and swim around yesterday, only it was on the grass of the East Elementary playground.

The canoe didn't get too far.

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Yampa River State Park and Elkhead Reservoir rangers stopped by the school to teach the second-graders boating and river safety tips, as Elkhead Reservoir opens tomorrow.

A major focus of the lesson was about life jackets.

"It's surprising the number of kids who don't have proper life jackets," Elkhead Reservoir ranger Ed Keleher said.

And without the proper life vests, children, and adults, are at a higher risk of drowning, and the children are breaking the law.

Yampa River State Park ranger Fran Conlon said the average drowning time for adults in cold water is 40 seconds, for children it's 20 seconds.

"When things go bad, they go bad fast," Conlon said.

This, he said, is because of an involuntary gasp reflex that kicks in when someone hits the cold water. If the person is underwater, he will breathe in the water.

Keleher said since Elkhead has been shut down, a new law has been passed that makes it illegal for children under 13 years of age to be on a boat without a properly fitted life vest.

The grouped moved into the school for the second half of the discussion as rain approached.

Conveniently, Keleher had plenty to discuss with the students on this subject, too.

He told them to pack up and get out of the water before rain clouds approach, not when they get there.

Conlon discussed how to stay safe if you have to float down the Yampa River.

He said to float on your back, with feet downstream, while paddling toward the shore. He said once your rear end hits the shore, it's safe to stand up, so as not to get a foot stuck.

"A large portion of boating fatalities can be prevented if they wear their life jackets," Keleher said.

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