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May 01, 2016
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‘Don’t worry, be happy’

The National Park Service strongly recommends that all boaters wear their life jackets even when seemingly tranquil waters beckon. The same is recommended for all swimmers. Fifty percent of the drownings that have occurred in the Upper Delaware River are swimming related.
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Have fun relaxing and floating in your life jacket as you enjoy the river this summer. It’s a safe way to float around and have fun. We hope you and your family have a great time while visiting the beautiful Upper Delaware River!

The Upper Delaware River region offers many places for people to get outside and enjoy nature and boasts some of the finest recreational opportunities in Northeastern United States. The area is teeming with lakes, streams, rivers and waterfalls that draw people to go swimming, boating and fishing. This year we all experienced a long hard winter here, and now people are excited to get back outside and enjoy all the river has to offer.

The National Park Service (NPS) on the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River would like to remind all water users to follow these safety tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience while recreating on the water:

Wear a life jacket. They are called life jackets because they save lives! On the Upper Delaware River there has never been an individual who has drowned while wearing a properly fitted and securely fastened life jacket. All boaters are required to have life jackets with them. The NPS strongly recommends that all boaters wear their vests but that swimmers wear them, too. Please make sure that your life jackets are Coast Guard approved and are in good condition. Children 12 years old and younger must be wearing their life jackets at all times while boating on the Upper Delaware. Set a good example for all children and wear yours, too.

Learn to swim. Many organizations offer swimming lessons; contact the American Red Cross for a course near you. Never overestimate your swimming ability. Even good swimmers can struggle in the strong currents of the Delaware River.

Most drownings occur while swimming. Swim only in established life-guarded swimming areas, never swim alone, and never attempt to swim across the river. If you choose to swim or wade, simply wear a life jacket. More than 50% of drownings that have occurred on the Upper Delaware River are swimming-related, and all of the victims had one thing in common: they were not wearing a life jacket.

Be aware of hazards. Strong currents, sudden drop-offs and other conditions create unexpected hazards in the river. If caught in the current, try not to panic. You should swim across the current until you are able to easily swim toward shore or float on your back with your feet pointed upwards using your arms to guide you. Never try to stand up in swift moving water.

Don’t underestimate the river

Many people do not consider that the Delaware can be very dangerous when they boat, wade, or swim. When it is sunny and warm, they are thinking only of pleasure. They don’t realize that although the scenic river looks beautiful, its currents are powerful and can easily sweep away even a strong swimmer. Hidden rocks and eddies pose additional dangers. Fighting against the river’s flow, a swimmer quickly becomes exhausted. It is better to drift along and slowly make one’s way to shore.

The National Park Service has partnered with the National Safe Boating Council and their “Wear It!” campaign, so if you are SWIMMING, BOATING, FISHING OR FLOATING, wear your life jacket.

High water = mandatory life jackets

Regulations for mandatory life jacket wear are in effect on the Upper Delaware River anytime the Barryville gauge reads six feet or higher. The National Park Service suggests that you ‘know the flow before you go.’ To check current river conditions, call the river hotline at 845/252-7100, or visit our website at To learn more about Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, please call 570/685-4871.

[Kevin Reish is National Park Service water safety program manager. Every summer he can be found out on the river keeping an eye out for problems and promoting safe boating practices in the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River.]