BOISE, Idaho — National Safe Boating Week begins on Saturday, and the Idaho Parks and Recreation Department has tips for people to stay safe on the water this summer.
Every year, a handful of people die in Idaho's waterways. Most of those deaths are preventable with the use of a personal flotation device. Idaho law requires children 14 and under to wear a life jacket when they are in a boat, a kayak, or on a paddleboard.
"Life jackets are the most important thing that you can have on a boat, and more importantly, you need to be wearing them," said David Dahms who heads up the boating division for the Idaho Parks & Rec. "According to Coast Guard statistics, 86 percent of the people that drown are not wearing life jackets.”
Dahms also urges boaters to control their wake on the lakes and reservoirs and lay off the alcohol. Last year, 46 people were cited for boating under the influence.
"Basically we want to keep all boaters safe on the water," said Dahms. "Our most popular option for boat safety has been our free home study guide."
This time of year, Idaho waters run cold. If you head down to the whitewater park, you'll notice the surfers wear wetsuits and kayakers wear cold-weather gear in addition to their other safety equipment.
If you want to go rafting, the safest way to enjoy Idaho rivers is by going with one of the commercial outfitters in the area.
American Whitewater puts together a database of accidents every year on the rivers. Four deaths occurred last year.
The flow in the Boise River has tripled this week to give salmon a better chance of making it to the ocean. The Boise River Watermaster says people can expect high water until at least June. meaning floaters and tubers should avoid the Boise River for now.
Ada County won't open its floating operation until sometime in June when the flows come down and the fire department eliminates hazards.
"Stay alive by staying out," said Rex Barrie, the Boise River Watermaster. "Unfortunately, almost every year, we have drownings in our rivers and our canals."
The canals are also full and because of the way they are built they are also a dangerous drowning hazard that should be avoided.
"They have a relatively steep side slope and once someone is in the canal it is extremely difficult to get out," said Barrie. "we urge parents to watch their children like a hawk it just takes a second for a child to disappear in a canal."
Idaho is the whitewater state and all the recreation that can be enjoyed during the summer makes Idaho a special place to live, but safety should always be a priority.