Iowa lakes and streams will soon be busy with paddlers eager to get on the water as summer is finally here. For many, it will be their first time out for the year, and experts advise they go through their equipment and review safety tips before heading to the water.

“The number one hazard on the river is strainers,” said Todd Robertson, river programs outreach coordinator with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Strainers are piles of wood or trees that can appear anywhere on a river, especially after it rains.

“These wood piles can trap a boat and paddler with little chance of escape if sucked under,” Robertson said. “The best way to avoid these strainers is to know how to properly navigate your boat or by portaging around them.”

The DNR has a paddler interactive map online where paddlers can report large strainers or new logjams at https://www.iowadnr.gov/Things-to-Do/Canoeing-Kayaking/Where-to-Paddle. Paddlers are encouraged to check the map before heading to the water. They should also check the condition of their lifejackets and replace any that are worn out or damaged.

“If you’re using your lifejacket as a seat cushion or have it stored under the deck rigging, it’s not going to be there for you when you need it,” Robertson said. “Plan to wear it.”

On the rivers, watch for low-head dam warning signs that will direct paddlers how to get around these dangerous dams. Never go over a low-head dam, Robertson said. “The hydraulics and boil will keep you with little chance of escape.”

Paddlers are in-between swims, he said, and in addition to wearing the lifejacket, paddlers should dress for the water temperature and not the air. There can be cool conditions even on summer days. During the heat of the summer, dehydration can take place while getting that workout so stay properly hydrated.

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