Cold water danger is real, DNR warns Minnesota boaters, hunters

Canoeing in Trout Lake.
A canoe sits on Trout Lake this week near Grand Marais, Minn. Despite cold temperatures, the lake has yet to completely freeze over.
Sam Harper for MPR News

As authorities continue to search for a man missing on Lake Waconia, state officials are reminding Minnesotans that lake and river temps are falling and that life jackets are essential.

Nearly one-third of boating deaths in Minnesota occur during the cold water season, and cold water robs body heat 25 times faster than air of the same temperature, the state Department of Natural Resources said.

Wearing a life jacket is "the only guarantee that you're going to have to be able to hold your head above water should you find yourself unexpectedly in the water," said Lisa Dugan, the DNR's boat and water safety outreach coordinator.

Falling in cold water can bring muscle cramping and incapacitate people in seconds, making it extremely difficult to try and put on a life jacket if you end up in the water, she added.

Basketball game
Authorities are searching for a man missing on Lake Waconia, seen here in 2015, and they want to remind Minnesotans that bodies of water are getting colder and life jackets are crucial.
Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News 2015 file

Boaters should wear a foam-insulated life jacket or buoyant outerwear known as a float coat when they are on cold water, she said, noting that the extra insulation can help a person retain their core body heat longer, giving them more time to call for help.

If you end up in the water, stay with the boat and try to get back in if able; don't try to swim to shore in cold water, Dugan said.

According to the Carver County Sheriff's Office, 35-year-old Andrew Stifter went to Lake Waconia Saturday afternoon to photograph wildlife and didn't return. His paddle board was found about 100 feet offshore.

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