Boating and floating safety begins with proper life jacket use.

Whether your July 4 weekend plans are to head to Grand Lake, Lake Hudson or the Illinois River, the Grand River Dam Authority Police Department is reminding you to boat and float, safe, smart and sober.

While visitors are encourage to practice safe social distancing, they are also encouraged to practice safety on the water by wearing a life jacket. According to the United States Coast Guard, drowning is the cause of three-fourths of all boating fatalities, and among those fatalities 85 percent of the victims were not wearing life jackets.

GRDA and the National Safe Boating Council offer these life jacket tips:

  • Buy each person their own life jackets. One size does not fit all.
  • Look at the label. It will provide the weight, size and proper use information.
  • Try it on to check the fit. Once the straps and buckles are secured, it should not slip over their head or come down above the ears.
  • Never use water toys in place of an approved life jacket.
  • Check the life jacket yearly for flotation and fit. Make sure it is still in good condition, with no rips or tears.
  • Wear the life jacket to increase the chance of survival in an accident and to set a good example for others.

One very special message the GRDA Police shares with Grand Lake visitors each July 4th holiday is the reminder that special boating rules are in effect for the Duck Creek arm of the lake. On the actual day of the Duck Creek Fireworks (Saturday, July 4) all watercraft shall operate at “Idle” and avoid producing a wake at all times in Duck Creek (all day, all night). Also, due to the FAA approved “air box” for the aerobatic show prior to the Duck Creek Fireworks, no boats will be allowed to anchor in Duck Creek until after the air show. However, there will be ample time for boats to get into position prior to the fireworks.

For those visiting the scenic Illinois River, GRDA reminds you to let the commercial float operator know if you or anyone in your party are a first-time or novice floater(s). They may be able to pair you with an experienced paddler/floater or float you in a raft where there is a lesser chance for capsizing.

Here are some other floating tips to keep in mind:

  • DON’T dive into the river from bluffs, stream banks and trees.
  • It is illegal to jump into the river from bridges.
  • If you are tired while floating, take a break on the bank or on a gravel bar to rest.
  • Never swim or boat alone. Stay within sight of companions.

For more information about the GRDA Police Department or how an officer can assist you, contact the department at (918) 256-0911 or visit our website. If you have an emergency, call 911.

Whether you are headed to the lake or the river, GRDA encourages you to keep these tips in mind as you enjoy Independence Day.