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Stay safe on the water this summer

It’s a message that bears repeating, especially during the final stretch of Michigan summer. When swimming, kayaking, boating or fishing, put safety first and never underestimate weather, water conditions or the value of a life jacket.

Strong currents can happen in all water types and depths, even shallow water. Lt. Gerald Thayer, the DNR’s district law supervisor in southwest Michigan, suggests that if you’re unsure about conditions, check with local authorities or an area boat rental, marina or outdoor gear retailer. Above all, pay attention.

“We have been in situations where divers are searching for a missing swimmer, and people are still swimming nearby, offshore where there are red flags. Or they jump off piers and bridges, unaware they’re jumping into rough water,” Thayer said. “When us Michiganders go to the ocean, we take notice of the warnings about rip currents or other possible dangerous conditions because we approach the ocean with respect, but we forget our own Great Lakes can be just as dangerous at times.”

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

– Check the Great Lakes Surface Currents Map for real-time visuals of currents in the Great Lakes, or river flow rates through the U.S. Geological Survey.

– Make sure your boat, kayak or canoe is properly equipped with life jackets, fire extinguishers and a first aid kit, plus nautical charts if you’re on the Great Lakes.

– Leave a float plan, including your planned route and scheduled check-in times, with someone on shore.

See a more complete list of swimming and boating safety tips and information about Michigan’s life jacket laws at the DNR’s Michigan.gov/Boating page.

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