Safety first when floating on the Colorado River |

Safety first when floating on the Colorado River

Caitlin Row


2013: 3

2012: 5

2011: 9

2010: 13

There’s nothing like floating the Colorado River with friends and family; it’s a Grand Valley tradition for young people (and sometimes old) to pile into rafts and tubes with friends, beer in hand.

But, so many folks cooling off in the snowmelt water don’t realize they’re putting themselves in danger by not wearing life vests, using the proper kinds of water vessels, bringing drinking water, or having sufficient tools on hand when they launch in to what they think is a calm stretch of river.

“A lot of people get the feeling that this stretch of river is pretty safe,” said Grand Junction Fire Department Spokesman Mike Page. “The reality is it’s not as safe as it looks, especially this time of year when the water is cold and murky. People can get in trouble really quick,” because the river covers up snags and strainers.

According to Mesa County Sheriff’s Office Spokeswoman Heather Benjamin in an email: “For those on the rivers in crafts made for swift water, all children must wear a life jacket and all adults must have one available. … But, for those who recreate on the rivers with ‘toys’ or swimming pool gear/tubes, there is no law that requires adults to have or wear a life jacket. Because, they aren’t meant to be used in the rivers, however, that is where people use them and often get hurt because of it. In addition, for adults who have children on the rivers in crafts not made for rivers without life jackets, they could be charged with child abuse or similar related charges.”

Page also stressed the importance of always wearing personal flotation devices when on the Colorado River. The GJFD is often called out with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office when river accidents occur, and a life vest is the difference between rescue and recovery.

“The rivers aren’t as high this year as we have often seen in past year, but people recreating on the rivers without life jackets, without proper equipment (made for the rivers) and mixing that with drugs/alcohol can be a deadly combination,” Benjamin said.

Page additionally noted that river floating isn’t the only dangerous activity folks need to be aware of. Accidents can occur in canals, irrigation ditches and ponds.

“Water is a great way to cool off in the summertime, but you have to pay attention,” Page said.

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