Did You Know?

Water-related accidents are among the most common cause of death in some of our nation’s most visited parks, forests and waterways. Many drowning victims were not trying to swim but were simply engaging in activities as innocent as wading, taking photos or playing along the stream bank. Those victims attempting to swim in swift waters overestimated their swimming ability and underestimated river currents. None of these drowning victims suspected that tragedy was about to overwhelm them.

Think Twice

Think twice before you head to rivers and lakes to seek relief from the heat. The Kern River is fed by melting snow over the high Sierra which makes it dangerously cold. Additionally, the river has swift undercurrents which can carry even an experienced swimmer quickly downstream and into trees and other vegetation along the banks of the river. Don’t be the next victim of drowning or a water rescue!


Be Aware of Hazards

Be cautious anytime you or your family are near rivers and streams. Consider these precautions as spring snow melts and rivers and streams rise. Also be cautious when waters appear warm or slow moving, but actually have strong and sometimes dangerous currents below the surface.

  • Water Temperature:  Air temperatures may feel hot and the water may feel or appear warm, but temperatures can be extremely cold below the surface. Hypothermia can quickly set in and overwhelm even the strongest of swimmers, becoming too weak to escape.

  • Currents:  In as little as six inches, water that may look calm on the surface and slow-moving can have enough force to knock you off your feet and sweep you downstream. Even a slow current can take you where you don't want to go, towards hazards, and leave strong swimmers unable to reach the shore.

  • Water Hazards:  A slippery and uneven river bottom combined with the stream’s current can suddenly sweep you off your feet. Debris and underwater features such as trees, branches and logs, and even narrow gaps between rocks can trap you under water, causing hypothermia or even death.


Water Safety is Your Responsibility

Anytime you're recreating in and around water -- especially with children, be aware of your surroundings.

  • Slippery rocks, an unstable shoreline or even a distraction that takes your focus away from the water, can cause an accident -- quickly and quietly.

  • Check river and stream conditions before heading out on your adventure and always let someone know where you are going and when you will return. River and stream condition information may be found at visitor centers, ranger stations and from weather alerts.

  • Inquire about swimming regulations. At some recreation sites swimming is not recommended or may even be prohibited. Follow "No Swimming" signs.

  • Where allowed, choose swimming areas carefully. Often hazards are not visible in what may seem like a good place to swim or wade.

  • Wear a properly fitting personal floatation device (life jacket) for all river activities. Don’t assume you have the swimming skills to keep you afloat, even the strongest swimmers can drown.

  • When near rapids or other moving water, always stay on the established trails or developed areas.

  • Keep a close watch on children even if they are far from the water. Water safety for children is especially important as they can quickly enter the water and get in trouble when your attention is diverted for only a moment.

  • Never walk, play or climb on slippery rocks and logs near rivers and streams.

  • Never swim or wade upstream from a waterfall, even if the water appears shallow or calm.

  • Be cautious of sudden drop offs.

  • Diving can be extremely dangerous because you can collide with rocks and be knocked unconscious.

If You Fall In

  • If swept into the current float on your back with your feet up and facing downstream to avoid being entrapped by underwater obstacles such as rocks or tree branches or roots.

  • Stay away from the sides of the river until you see a safe place to exit clear of hazards such as tree limbs and rocks.

  • Swim diagonally across (head upstream) to the safe exit point.

  • If you can’t swim, call for help but don’t wear yourself out by screaming.

  • Stay calm and cooperate with the person trying to rescue you.


  • Nature of the emergency

  • Location of the emergency