Water Safety in Parks
The Vancouver parks system only allows swimming access at Wintler Community Park, lifeguards are not on duty. It is critical that park visitors use caution when visiting local rivers and lakes. High and swift rivers can easily overwhelm even the strongest swimmer.
On hot days, lakes, ponds, and rivers may still be cold and dangerous. Hypothermia can occur quickly in very cold water. Be aware that swimming in open water (lakes, rivers, ponds, etc.) is harder than in a pool and most people get tired faster and can end up in trouble more quickly. A person can go under water in murky water, making them very difficult to find, or be swept away in currents.
Avoid swimming where two rivers come together; many good swimmers have gotten into trouble or drowned in currents that did not appear to be moving very fast on the water’s 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.
Take these steps to ensure the best possible outcomes when visiting a park with water access:
- 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.
Know Your Limits
There are several things you can do to ensure a safe park experience around water:
- Never swim alone.
- Make sure an adult supervises with no distractions and watches 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.
- When boating, do not overload the boat and wear a life jacket that fits. Many people have drowned after falling overboard while fishing.
- Stay sober when on or in the water.
- Keep in mind that river bottoms are uneven, with sharp drop-offs that can leave someone wading into deep water without warning.
- Boaters should always be aware of their surroundings and keep a safe and legal distance from beach swimming areas, other boats, personal watercraft, and docks.
- Follow the posted park rules for the park you are visiting to ensure safe water access.
Flotation Device Warning
- Flotation devices are not foolproof; they are NOT a substitute for close guardian supervision.
- Parents/guardians MUST remain within arm’s reach of small children using a flotation device.
- If you cannot swim well enough to be safe in deep water without a flotation device, you are not safe with one either.