Swimming and Water Safety in parks

Know the Water

Due to budget cuts, there are no lifeguards on duty at any of our outdoor swimming areas, and Vancouver Parks and Recreation is urging all park visitors to be cautious when visiting local rivers and lakes.

High and swift rivers can easily overwhelm the strongest swimmer. Even on hot days, many lakes, ponds, and rivers may still be cold and dangerous for swimmers. Hypothermia can occur quickly in very cold water. Swimming in open water (lakes, rivers, ponds, etc.) is harder than in a pool. People tire faster and get into trouble more quickly. A person can go under water in murky water, making them very hard to find, or be swept away in currents. Avoid swimming where two rivers come together - many good swimmers have gotten into trouble or drown in currents that didn't appear to be moving that fast on the surface.

Water contact areas located along the Columbia River, like Frenchman's Bar Regional Park and Cottonwood Beach are not considered safe for swimming due to strong currents and steep drop offs.

Know Your Limits

There are several things you can do to ensure a safe park experience around water:

  • Never swim alone.
  • Even if you're a good swimmer, always make sure an adult is supervising with no distractions and watching everyone in the area.
  • Children and adults who are not strong swimmers should wear life jackets at all times when they are in the water. Swim lessons are available at several local facilities to help build strong swimming skills, including the Marshall and Firstenburg Community Centers
  • When boating, don't overload the boat and wear a life jacket that fits. Many people have drown after falling overboard while fishing. Be prepared at all times by wearing a life jacket - you never know when you'll be tossed into the water.
  • Stay sober when on or in the water.
  • River bottoms are uneven, with sharp drop-offs that can leave someone wading in deep water without warning.
  • Boaters need to always be aware of their surroundings and keep a safe and legal distance from beach swimming areas, other boats, personal watercraft, and docks.
  • Always follow the posted park rules for the park you are using to ensure safe water access.
Be Prepared
  • Check river or steam conditions by contacting the United States Geological Survey at (253) 428-3600 ext. 2635.
  • Take life jackets, a rescue device, a cell phone, and someone who knows CPR when you are out on the water.
  • Check beach advisories before you go swimming
  • Boaters must obtain their boater education card from the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.
  • Parents need to tell their children about the dangers of open water at rivers and beaches, and need to know where their children are swimming, who they are with, and when they are expected home.
  • Parents are powerful role models. If they wear life jackets, it's more likely their children will too.
  • Learn more about water safety and drowning prevention from the Washington State Drowning Prevention Network, children's hospitals and regional medical centers

US Coast Guard Boating and Paddle Safety Course

Own or buying a paddle craft to use the Parks and Recreation’s 30+ miles of water trails? Consider taking a class with the Coast Guard Auxiliary and Clark County Sheriff’s Office. Paddle craft classes are held once a month, as well as About Boating Safety for power vessel owners.

Some things the 4 hour class will explore are the different types of craft, care for your vessel, how to check weather and conditions, what and how to pack essentials, the US Aids to Navigation system, local hazards, the legal requirements, and how to handle emergencies.
Cost is $10. If interested please contact Gay Sipes at 360.256.2991.

More information and latest schedule:

Parks with Public Water Access

Klineline Pond/Salmon Creek Park
Vancouver Lake Park
Capt. William Clark Park at Cottonwood Beach
Frenchman's Bar Park
Moulton Falls Park
Lewisville Park
Wintler Park
Battle Ground Lake State Park

  • Swimming and water access is not allowed at Lucia Falls Park.
  • Swimming is not recommended at Frenchman's Bar Park, Cottonwood Beach and Wintler Park because of the swift currents and steep drop-offs in the Columbia River.

Get more information on water quality at these locations from Clark County Public Health.

Certain parks also have site-specific safety advisories as follows:

  • Unguarded beach and river
  • Fast currents
  • Water depth varies
  • Sudden river bed drop-offs
  • Potential pollutants
  • NO personal watercraft may access the beach area for ANY reason, including, but not limited to, docking or loading/unloading passengers
  • Swim at your own risk
  • Unguarded beach and river
  • Fast currents
  • Water depth varies
  • Swim at your own risk
  • Unguarded beach and lake
  • Swim at your own risk
  • No pets in the developed beach/turf areas
  • No boats or kayaks on pond, unless permitted
  • No abusing docks, ropes, buoys, pilings or boom
  • ONLY U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices* are allowed at Klineline. They should not be used in water deeper than 4 feet.
  • No pets in the developed beach/turf areas April - October
  • Unguarded beach and lake
  • Sudden lake bed drop-offs
  • Swim at your own risk
  • No swimming beyond designated areas
  • No abusing ropes, buoys, pilings or boom

  1. Flotation devices are not foolproof; they are NOT a substitute for close guardian supervision.
  2. Parents/guardians MUST remain within arms reach of small children using any flotation device.
  3. If you can't swim well enough to be safe in deep water without a flotation device, you aren't safe with one either.