May 31, 2012 —
NATION — May is National Water Safety Month, and with five drownings last summer, the National Park Service (NPS) teamed up with its recreational and emergency service partners to promote a “Wear It! Swimming, Boating, Fishing, Floating” safety program this year during May, which encouraged all river users to wear their lifejackets at all times.
“Of the five river deaths last summer, three resulted from trying to swim across the river. One was a fishing accident, and one occurred when a man was ejected from a raft in the rapids below the Hawk’s Nest. Those deaths could have been avoided by wearing a life jacket,” said Kevin Reish, 2012 Safety Campaign Coordinator.
“The river is deceiving; it’s got a current that wears swimmers out, especially if people attempt to swim across the river when they have been paddling in the sun all day,” said NPS Superintendent Sean McGuinness.
In addition to posting the Wear It! signs at liveries and other visitor location points throughout the valley, the NPS has been reaching out to the school community. “By the end of the month, over 1700 students will receive a water safety program,” said Ingrid Peterec, NPS Education Specialist.
In addition to the simple message of “Wear It!,” river users are reminded never to swim alone, and are encouraged to float feet first if they fall into the water and to stay upstream of their vessel. Lifejackets are mandatory if the river measures six feet at the Barryville gauge.
Visit www.nps.gov/upde/planyourvisit/riversafety.htm  for river safety information. Call the river hotline at 845/252-7100 for air and water temperatures.