DNR Shares Tips for a Safe Fourth of July Holiday Weekend

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As the Fourth of July holiday weekend quickly approaches the forecast predicts very warm weather which will draw thousands of people to state parks, beaches, lakes and rivers.

BEACH & SWIMMING SAFETY:

Wherever you choose to swim this weekend or this summer, whether it’s a backyard pool, a pond or lake, or a public pool, please follow these safety tips:

  • Keep a close eye on others, especially children. Assign a designated adult to watch over children, and never assume someone else is watching them. Be close enough to touch the child at all times. Even in ankle deep water, the current can be strong enough to sweep you off your feet and out into deeper water.
  • Swim with a buddy.
  • If you haven’t swam in a long-time, refresh your abilities. All children should learn to swim with formal lessons.
  • Always wear a life jacket. Make sure kids wear their life jackets before getting in the water.
  • Avoid alcohol while swimming.
  • Stay within the roped in area of the lake.
  • Obey posted signs and flags.
  • Take a water bottle with you and keep it nearby throughout the day. It’s easy to get dehydrated in the sun, particularly if you’re active and sweating.
  • Note that
    • Iowa’s public beaches do not have lifeguards on duty
    • Alcohol is prohibited at some public beaches.
    • Glass bottles are prohibited on beaches.

Because the beaches are busier this summer, staff encourage visitors to visit during the non-peak times and days. For the busier beaches/parks, the non-peak days are usually Sundays through Thursdays, and Fridays before 5:00 pm. If you plan to go to the beaches on Saturdays, the non-peak hours are usually before noon.

Parks staff may temporarily close parking lots when they become full and limit the number of visitors at that point. The DNR recommends visitors go to another nearby park or beach that is not as heavily populated. Visitors are reminded to only park in designated parking spaces. Violators will be cited by staff.


BOATING SAFETY:

  • Plan ahead and avoid peak hours and large crowds of boating.
  • Park your vehicles and trailers in designated parking spaces NOT in grass areas or they will be ticketed and towed.
  • Alcohol and boating don’t mix. Wind, sun glare and heat can enhance the effects of alcohol, hindering the operator’s ability to make necessary decisions.
  • The same limit of .08 for operating a vehicle under the influence applies to boating.
  • Always have a designated operator that avoids consuming alcohol.
  • Wear your life jacket, it floats, you don’t! Any children 12 and under must wear a lifejacket at all times on a vessel underway in Iowa.
  • Every boat or vessel must have a wearable life jacket for everyone on board; a USCG approved throw-able flotation device is also required on vessels 16’ or longer.
  • Make sure there is a charged fire extinguisher on board, as well as a horn/whistle.
  • Slow down and watch for other boaters or personal watercraft, have patience.
  • Avoid dams and other hazards on waterways.
  • Obey all posted warning signs and rules.
  • Drain plugs and other water draining devices must be removed and/or remain open during transport to avoid spreading of invasive species.

STATE PARKS/CAMPGROUNDS SAFETY:

The Fourth of July is one of the busiest times to visit a state park as people enjoy beaches and outdoor activities in the summer sun. Please use these safety tips to ensure an enjoyable time:

  • Pack snacks, food, water and personal hygiene products, to bring along for hiking and other recreational activities in the state parks.
  • Stay hydrated with plenty of fluids.
  • Don’t hike alone and always have some way to communicate if you get lost and need help.
  • Wear proper outdoor attire for hiking.
  • Pack bug spray and sunscreen.
  • Slow down on park roadways and obey posted speed limit signs. Families and kids are often walking or biking on the roads.
  • If a parking lot becomes full at a park or campground, staff may temporarily close the parking lots and limit the number of visitors at that point. If there is no parking available, do not park in the grass areas, along roadways or any other area that is not a designated parking lot. Violators will be cited.
  • If a park is busy, consider visiting a nearby state park that is less populated. Or visit the park during non-peak times, which often include mornings and evenings.
  • “Carry In, Carry Out”—please pick up any trash and carry out what you carry into the park. Be respectful and care for our natural resources.
  • Don’t transport firewood; buy it locally.
  • Be respectful of your neighbors camping around you.
  • Campers should dispose of trash in receptacles, not burn it in the campfires.
  • Check the DNR website for current alerts and closures.
  • If you plan to fish, be sure to have a current fishing license. Anyone 16 years and older must have a fishing license to fish Iowa waters.You can purchase one by visiting: GoOutdoorsIowa.com, or by downloading the Go Outdoors Iowa app on your smartphone through the Google Play store or the App Store. You can also purchase your fishing license at some local retailers in your area.

PADDLING SAFETY:

Whether it be tubing, kayaking or canoeing, paddlers are enjoying the splash of the water, scenic views, and wildlife viewing from Iowa’s rivers, rapids and streams. Many new paddlers are getting out on the water for the first time this summer. Stay safe each time you paddle with these simple safety tips:

  • Always wear your life jacket. Kids 12 and under must wear a life jacket at all times. Iowa law requires life jackets on every watercraft, whether it’s a motorized boat, jet ski, kayak, canoe, or even a paddleboard.
  • Never paddle rain swollen streams that are at or near flood stage.
  • Paddle with a group, not by yourself.
  • Let others know where you will be paddling, including what access to what access, and when you are expected to return.
  • Know and understand your river levels and flows, as well as the weather forecast.
  • Avoid wading in current off of a river bank, sandbar or access points.
  • Learn about and study your route in advance. Know where your take-out access is located, how many river miles downstream, and how long it is going to take to get there.
  • Check the Iowa DNR’s interactive paddler’s map for updates on real-time hazards like downed trees and log jams, strainers and bridge construction. Pay attention to the dam warning signs and know where dams are located before you head out on the water.
  • Bring along a dry bag with a set of extra clothes you can change into if you get wet, a first-aid kit and a protected cell phone or weather radio.
  • Pack plenty of water to stay hydrated. Wear light, loose fitting clothing that dries quickly. Wear a hat, sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen.

FIREWORKS SAFETY:

Whether attending a display or celebrating in your backyard, keep these safety tips in mind.

  • Fireworks are strictly prohibited in state parks; only sparklers are allowed.
  • Remember that fireworks can cause serious burns and eye injuries. The Iowa Department of Public Health encourages families to make sure an adult supervises fireworks and keeps young children from playing with or igniting them.
  • Keep fireworks pointed away from you and others when igniting them, and back up quickly after lighting. If fireworks don’t ignite or burn fully, don’t try to relight them or pick them up. Keep a bucket of water or hose on hand to respond to a fire or mishap.
  • If you have asthma or other lung impairments, be aware of air quality conditions following firework shows, which can temporarily emit smoke and small particulates in the air, impacting breathing.
  • Pick up litter and dispose of any unused fireworks in a safe manner.
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