Minnesota Lake and River Safety

Summer is here and as the weather warms up so does water activity in our “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” But with every fun vacation memory comes the potential risk for accident and injury. This summer keep your family safe by following our list of lake safety tips.


Though swimming is one of the easiest ways to cool down in the summer sun, swimming in open water like lakes, rivers and ponds can be much harder than doing laps in the neighborhood pool. Knowing your limits and the environment, playing safe and taking precautions will ensure you have a splashing good time.

Water Temps: Water that is warm on the surface can be much colder below, keep this in mind as you move into deeper depths.

Children: Always watch young children carefully in and around the water and make sure they are wearing the appropriate gear (floaties, life jackets, bright colored swimwear) and sunscreen.

Don’t Swallow: To help prevent waterborne illness, try to avoid swallowing water as it can contain pathogenic microorganisms and result in parasitic, bacterial and viral infections.

Know Your Limits: People often tire faster and get into trouble more quickly in open water because of the potential obstacles presented and the extra effort needed to overcome them.

Never Swim Alone: Always swim with a buddy this gives you someone to assist you or to get help, should you get into trouble. Murky lake waters can make it hard to find a swimmer in trouble and currents in rivers can cause a fatigued swimmer to be swept away. Avoid swimming where two rivers come together – many good swimmers have gotten into trouble or drowned in currents that didn’t seem to be moving that fast.

Use Life-Guarded Areas: When possible swim in areas monitored by life guards, especially if you are not a strong swimmer. Watch out for sudden drop-offs in lakes and rivers. People who aren’t strong swimmers have slipped into deeper water and drowned.

Stay Away From Unsafe Areas: Watch for jagged or slimy rocks that can cause injury or slippage, be aware of rip-currents or other areas that are unsafe for swimming and steer clear of them.


See our Post on Boating Safety 101 for a more complete guide to staying safe while boating this summer on open waterways.

Don’t overload the boat.
Wear a life jacket that fits, at all times.
Avoid drinking when on or in the water. Alcohol and drugs impair judgment and reaction times and increase the risks.
Watch children carefully and have them wear a proper-fitting life jacket at all times. Children can go under water quickly and quietly.
Check conditions and advisories before you head out and plan accordingly.
In addition to life jackets, be prepared with a rescue devices, a cell phone, and someone appropriately trained in First Aid and CPR when out on the water.
Educate children about open water dangers at rivers, lakes, and beaches.
Be a good role model – when you practice safety so will your kids.
Keep away from engine and generator exhaust outlets.
Never sit, teak surf, or hang on or under the back deck or swim platform while the engines are running or where exhaust outlets are located.
Install and maintain CO alarms inside your boat.
Carry Boating Safety and First Aid Kits with you at all times.

Dehydration and is often the underlying cause of illness and accidents on summer’s waterways. Not only do you need to practice good water drinking when out in the heat of the day, you need to practice all necessary precautions for preserving water loss and to keep body heat down.

Drink 8-10 eight-ounce glasses of water a day is a good rule of thumb but when out in extreme heat, low humidity or when you have increased activity, you have to remember to increase this amount to replace the additional water loss.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol; these libations are diuretics and as such will deplete your body of precious water.
Wear sunscreen, protective clothing, and seek shade to protect your skin and reduce risk of heat stroke.
Reduce activity and get out of direct sun during the hottest part of the day (from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) to decrease risk of sunburn, dehydration and heat sickness.
Watch urine output – if urine is dark your body is working too hard and dehydrated. Urine should be clear or pale yellow in color. If not, drink more water.
If you feel you’ve become dehydrated:

Stop all activity.
Get out of the sun.
Immediately drink 64 oz of cool (not ice cold) liquids including those with electolytes, over the next two to four hours.
Seek medical attention if:

Dizziness, weakness, confusion, fainting, elevated heartbeat or lack of urination for eight hours occurs.
For more information on Lake and River Safety visit the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Water and Boating Safety Guide.