It has been a rough summer season at the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River. On Saturday, June 26, I received a call that every superintendent of a water-based National Park Service site …
It has been a rough summer season at the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River. On Saturday, June 26, I received a call that every superintendent of a water-based National Park Service site dreads: a drowning has happened. Then, later the same day, another one. A few days later, a third drowning. The next week, a fourth. Add to that a drowning that occurred earlier in June and you get five drownings this summer on the 73.4-mile stretch of the Upper Delaware.
Each one of these deaths is a tragedy for families and friends. Each one also affects employees at the National Park site. But what makes them even more tragic is that all these drownings could have been prevented with one thing: a life jacket, worn properly.
On the surface, a river may look as calm as a swimming pool, but below the surface are currents powerful enough to drag down even a strong swimmer. The average drowning victim along the Delaware is a man in the prime of his life, 18 to 35 years of age. Even young, strong men become tired swimming against strong water currents and drown. That’s why life jackets should always be worn at a river like the Delaware.
Your life jacket should fit comfortably snug. To quickly check the fit, fasten and secure all of the straps and raise your arms. Your life jacket should stay and not ride up. You can also have someone lift the jacket up at your shoulders; it should not go above your ears. You should wear your life jacket not only when boating, but when swimming, wading or even fishing from the shore as well. Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River has many life jacket loaner stations available at boat launch areas.
Another factor in many water-related deaths is alcohol. Even a slight amount can impair judgment. In those few seconds after falling into the water, people may lose their balance and coordination. Alcohol intensifies this effect, making self-rescue a lot harder. Alcohol and going on or in the water just do not mix.
The Upper Delaware River is a wonderful place to enjoy safe, responsible water recreation. Don’t turn your day of fun into a day of tragedy. Every time you are near, on or in the water, always wear a life jacket, make sure it is properly fastened and fits you well, and do not consume alcohol. Following these simple instructions could save your life.
More information can be found at www.nps.gov/articles/life-jacket-wear.htm
Joe Salvatore is the superintendent of the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, a unit of the National Park Service. The Upper Delaware, part of the Wild and Scenic River System, is a 73.4-mile stretch from Hancock, NY to just north of Port Jervis, NY. For more about this regional collaboration, visit www.nps.gov/upde/learn/management/index.htm.