'Know before you go' on recreational waters
Great weather? Check. Swimsuit packed? Check. Lake/river safe? Huh?
It's rare, but due to June flooding, experts recommend extra care this year when heading to the rivers and lakes for that weekend getaway.
Water currents can be deceptively strong and there's a lot of debris in the water. It's a good idea to also check beaches and waters for pollution in previously-flooded areas.
Debris can wash into waters, shorelines can become unstable and give away, and high currents can become a danger.
"Probably the most important advice we can give people this year is to know before you go," says Roy Zellmer, DNR boating administrator. "Know the conditions of the water you want to recreate on before you get there and take appropriate precautions."
Zellmer's Top 3 tips to stay safe are: Wear a life jacket, be sure the boat driver is sober and know the "rules of the road" on the water.
Officials report emergency slow-no-wake rules are still in effect on many southern waters.
Another thing to watch for later this summer is blue-green algae. Added organic material delivered during the flooding creates conditions ripe the growth of excessive blue-green algae which can produce harmful toxins. People should look for the telltale blue-green scum near the water's surface before swimming or allowing domestic animals to drink.
The good news is that even in the south, lake and river conditions vary greatly, and fully three-quarters of Wisconsin's 15,081 lakes are in northern Wisconsin, which didn't suffer the flooding.
The National Weather Service provides river observations and other information on their Web site. The U.S. Geological Survey provides current and historical stream flow information, although the site is a little more technical.
Swimmers: the state's beach health Web site www.wibeaches.us offers the most up-to-date source of information on the status of beaches regularly monitored and results reported on the Web site, says Bob Masnado, who leads DNR's beach monitoring program. Local health departments have the sole authority to determine if a beach is open or closed and are responsible for monitoring their water quality.
Boaters: Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1989, must have a boating safety education certificate to operate a motorboat on Wisconsin's waterways, Zellmer says.
Top two boating safety tips:
Be safe! It's time to make some keeper memories!