Boating and swimming accidents are down in 2014 versus last year — but that may have more to do with fewer people on lakes and rivers during the poor spring weather.
The Fourth of July weekend promises some good weather, so officials are encouraging Minnesotans to stay safe.
Kara Owens, boat and water safety specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, joined The Daily Circuit ahead of the holiday stretch to offer some safety advice for anyone on or near water.
We also asked MPR News reporter Liala Helal to get tips from local officials.
First, Owens' top four:
1. Watch out for high water, no-wake rules due to recent flooding.
No-wake rules remain in place for the St. Croix River from Taylors Falls, Minnesota to Prescott, Wisconsin, Lake Minnetonka and Prior Lake. (Long Lake, Snail Lake and Island Lake in Ramsey County are under wake ordinances.)
Higher water also means stronger currents on rivers and more debris. Check the DNR site for the latest information.
2. Worry about cold water.
The average water temperature in the metro is just above 70 degrees, Owens said. Anything below 70 degrees is considered cold water, which can cause problems even for experienced swimmers. Jumping into cold water can cause you to involuntarily gasp and breathe in water, she said.
3. Check water conditions before your trip.
Owens recommended calling a local bait shop or outfitter, especially if you're taking a boat out on an unfamiliar lake or river.
4. Always keep an eye on children near water.
State law says all children under age 10 must wear a life jacket in a moving boat.
If you're at a pool, don't expect lifeguards to keep an eye on your children. Avoid distractions like cell phones while watching children and practice active supervision.
And here are four more from MPR's Helal.
5. Paddling Minnehaha Creek still isn't safe.
Paddling is unsafe any time the creek flows at more than 150 cubic feet per second and as of Thursday, it is flowing around 380 cubic feet per second, says Tiffany Forner of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District.
"With the creek moving this fast, there's a lot of downed trees, there's a lot of bridges you can't get under because the water's too high," she says.
6. Sliding shoreline?
The ground near many river banks and streams is still saturated and could become unstable, warns the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office. It recommends people wear a life jacket if they plan to sight see or be near fast-moving bodies of water.
7. Don't drink the water; check before swimming in it.
The state Health Department's advice is the same in high water or low: Don't swallow water in pools or lakes, don't swim with diarrhea, take children on bathroom breaks or change diapers often (in a bathroom and not at the lakeside or poolside, and then wash hands), wash hands after leaving the water and before eating.
8. Sewage? Watch out near Wabasha.
There are no more sewage bypasses discharging into Minnesota lakes as of Thursday but Wabasha, in southeast Minnesota, is discharging sewage into the Mississippi River, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says.
Minnesotans should contact their local city or county if they have any concerns about whether a lake is safe to swim, wade, fish or boat, the agency adds.
Bonus tips: Some additional boating safety thoughts from Hennepin County:
• Designate a sober boat operator prior to your day of boating.
• State law requires that life jackets are readily accessible for all people on board the boat.
• Be aware of the danger of a boat propeller. People in the water, who are re-entering the boat, have been injured by props.