Be safe on the water

Summer fun at Kansas state parks usually means being near, in or on the water. Twenty-three of our 26 state parks offer convenient access to lakes, reservoirs and rivers, providing a great way to enjoy the outdoors and beat the heat. However, fun on the water requires some common-sense safety precautions.

Remember that state park beaches do not have lifeguards. Parents should keep a close eye on youngsters and it’s a good idea to strap little ones into a properly-fitting life jacket. A toddler can disappear in an instant on a crowded beach. Older kids love to play on inflatable water toys but care must be exercised under windy conditions. A stiff Kansas wind blowing out from the beach can sweep floaters away from shore surprisingly fast.

Over the holiday weekend, reservoirs will be busy with pleasure boaters, skiers, personal watercraft, sail boats and anglers. Before boaters get to the ramp, they should be familiar with boating regulations and safety requirements, especially those concerning life jackets. Children age 12 and younger must wear a properly-fitting life jacket while on the boat, and there must be a serviceable life jacket readily accessible for everyone older than 12 onboard. The best safety precaution is to have everyone wear a life jacket while onboard. For more information on boating safety and regulations visit

While boating accidents aren’t common on Kansas waters, they do have a common theme: alcohol. Unfortunately, many boaters associate being on the water with drinking alcohol, and most boating accidents are alcohol related. Sun, waves and heat can exacerbate the effect of alcohol on judgment and coordination. Anyone planning on driving a boat should know that boating under the influence (BUI) is against the law. Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism boating officers can administer sobriety checks with breathalyzers. Anyone operating a boat with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or greater will receive a citation and lose boating privileges. To learn more about BUI enforcement, watch this video:

Watching the weather forecast should also be part of preparing for a boating outing. Summer thunderstorms or high winds can make boating hazardous. Knowing the forecast and using a smartphone for weather updates while at the lake could prevent being caught in a sudden storm miles from a boat ramp.

Water recreation at Kansas state parks is safe and getting safer, but there is always some risk. However, if you make just a few precautions routine, you can ensure that your family has fun and stays safe.