Safety on the river

August 07, 2003 12:00 am

We're not aware of anyone drowning in the Powder River while tubing or swimming to beat the heat.

We'd like to keep it that way.

That means Baker City parents and their children need to have straightforward conversations about the river, and when — and under what circumstances — kids and adults alike will jump in the water.

Just because the river is rarely more than a few feet deep and a child is a good swimmer is no assurance of a safe outing.

An unconscious Olympic swimmer or Navy SEAL could drown in a puddle.

And as the river rises and tubers seek the rush of running the rapids created by the rocky weirs, the risk of taking a bonk on the head and blacking out increases.

A tuber who suffers an unexpected head injury won't have known the blow was coming. That's why they are called "accidents."

A tuber running the river in shorts and their bare skin could go face down, or even sink when thrown clear of their tube.

Contrast that with tubers running the river in a personal flotation device, or lifejacket.

Unconscious, a child or adult in a PFD has an opportunity to remain above water until help can arrive.

We've even seen children running the river sans tube in only a lifejacket, although the wooden and metal debris, not to mention rocks, that litter the river might make this a hazardous proposition, too.

Sure, it's just the Powder River. Our Powder River. The waterway generations of Baker residents have played in when the summer sun chases the mercury ever higher.

But just because the river has been heavily manipulated by man — channelized, lined with rip-rap, put in check with a series of rock weirs, and made an accessible attraction by miles of riverside parkway — doesn't make it a man-made water feature.

This isn't the Roaring Springs adventure park, where engineered water features can thrill — and lifeguards can come to your aid. It's a river, with a current, that can kill.

Reasonable precautions are in order to keep you and your children safe on the water.