Tri-City rivers can be the perfect place to cool off this summer, but parks and recreation officials caution that open water also harbors danger.
Laurel Strand, Richland Parks and Recreation manager, told the Herald on Monday that fast currents, difficult terrain and frigid waters on the Yakima and Columbia rivers can endanger even good swimmers.
She recommended people seek recreation at pools and designated swimming areas instead of the open water.
But those who do wish to explore can make themselves safer by following two core rules from Strand and Valerie Brutzman, a Kennewick Parks and Recreation pool manager.
First, carry enough Coast Guard-approved life jackets for everyone, Strand said.
Washington law requires children 12 years and younger to wear life jackets on most boats, but adults should wear them too, Strand said.
Life jackets can be difficult to put on after hitting the water, Brutzman said, so it is better to always wear one.
And those without life jackets can check them out for free at parks across the Tri-Cities, including Howard Amon Park, Columbia Point Marina, Leslie Groves Park and Southridge Sports Complex. Army Corps of Engineers parks also have racks of life jackets available to loan to swimmers.
Strand said all swimmers -- even strong ones --- should wear life jackets, but all life-jacket users should learn how to swim. This is Strand and Brutzman's second rule.
-- Eric Francavilla: 582-1535; firstname.lastname@example.org