The heavy snow pack of this past winter has begun it’s melt off and now there is no shortage of water in our area.  Backyard creeks that have been dry for years are suddenly gurgling.  In fact, there is so much water that the water manager for Lake Tahoe had to release extra water last week, prompting flooding warnings all along the Truckee River.  It is the highest water flows the river has seen since 2006, and it’s anticipated to remain high in to the summer months.

Locally, the river between the River Ranch restaurant at the bottom of the Alpine Meadows Road and Truckee are almost completely submerged – certainly without room for boaters to pass beneath.  In fact, the water at Bells Landing at River Ranch is up over the take-out platform and nearly flowing over the wall onto the restaurant’s patio.  The bike trail between Tahoe City and River Ranch is completely under water in places.

As the weather heats up, the river will become more and more tempting – to float, swim, and play in.  And thus, river safety precautions are essential to be aware of.  Moving water is one of the most powerful forces on earth.  Just 5 inches of moving water can knock you down and not much more can sweep a vehicle away.  Fresh water moving at only 4 mph, a brisk walking pace, exerts a force of about 66 pounds on each square foot of anything it encounters; double the water speed to 8 mph and the force zooms to about 264 pounds per square foot.  Imagine what it would do to a person!

Besides the obvious rule of not being alone on, or too near, moving water, there are some other things of which to be aware.

PFD’s (Personal Flotation Devices) or as they are more commonly known, life jackets, should always be worn when on a river.  Even if you think it’s just a lazy float trip, one rock can knock you right out of your tube and put you in an extremely dangerous position.

Alcohol and water don’t mix in this instance.  Alcohol lessens your ability to be able to anticipate and react to situations, which could prove too costly to be worth the risk.

Never try to stand up or walk in moving water.  It’s very easy for your foot to get caught in a crevice or under a rock and you can be swept forward by the water’s force, and unable to right yourself.  If you do get swept off your feet, keep your toes up where you can see them and pointed downstream to be able to push off rocks until you can get to an area of calmer water to collect yourself and get out of the river.

May is National Water Safety Month and the official start of the summer season.  You’ll find more safety tips here to help you enjoy a summer filled with water fun.  Just be water smart!