13-047 Corps stresses holiday, seasonal safety in the Snake River Basin

Published July 3, 2013

SNAKE RIVER -- Water management and recreation officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Walla Walla District urge visitors to keep safety in mind while enjoying outdoor recreation opportunities along the Snake River, particularly during unusually hot temperatures and low-water flows.

Many people enjoy water-based recreation as part of their Fourth of July celebration.  Outdoors enthusiasts can enjoy scenic river views while taking advantage of picnicking, camping, fishing, boating and swimming opportunities.

Unfortunately, some celebrations end tragically due to accidents in, on and around the water.  To ensure a safer recreation experience over the holiday and throughout the year, please remember the following rules enforced at Corps recreation areas:

Leave fireworks at home – using pyrotechnics poses a high risk of starting fires in parks and habitat areas, and are not allowed on Corps lands in the Walla Walla District. Recreation officials encourage visitors to attend local fireworks displays in communities near the parks.

Campfires and barbecues are only allowed in designated areas.  Some locations have restrictions on open fires, so check the information kiosks at recreation areas for additional fire restriction and safety notices.  For example, Lower Granite Lock and Dam, near Pomeroy, Wash., has a wood fire ban from June 10 until Oct. 10, but allows the use of charcoal and propane in campfire rings and grills. Charcoal briquettes should be allowed to completely cool before disposal -- never dump hot coals onto the ground they can ignite nearby vegetation. The wood fire ban is in effect for all lands and water managed by the Lower Granite Natural Resource Management Office. This includes all areas upstream of Lyons Ferry Park on Lake Herbert G. West, all areas on Lake Bryan and all areas on Lower Granite Lake.


Extremely hot weather, like what has recently occurred in the Snake River Basin, can hurt or worse. Don’t needlessly put yourself at risk...know the symptoms of heat illness www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/warning.html and practice prevention tips www.cdc.gov/features/extremeheat/ recommended by the Center for Disease Control.

Heat illness preventive measures:

• Drink plenty of fluids even if you don’t feel thirsty.

• Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing and sunscreen.

• Do not leave children or pets in cars.

• Schedule outdoor activities carefully and pace yourself.

• Take regular breaks from direct sun exposure in the shade or an air-conditioned, indoor location.

• Take cool showers or baths to cool down.

• Check the local news for health and safety updates.

Heat illness categories and symptoms



Heat Exhaustion

•Heavy sweating


•Cold, pale, and clammy skin

•Fast, weak pulse

•Nausea or vomiting


Heat Stroke

•High body temperature (above 103°F)*

•Hot, red, dry or moist skin

•Rapid and strong pulse

•Possible unconsciousness



Heat illnesses should be taken seriously and can be fatal in extreme cases. If you or anyone you’re with show signs of heat illness, immediately relocate to a cooler environment and get medical help.

As the nation's largest federal provider of water-based recreation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stresses water safety and urges extra caution while in or around water. Following these water-fun safety tips can help you have a great time out at the rivers and return home safely.

Learn to swim and don't overestimate your skill. Once you know how to swim, ensure that you always swim with a buddy. Don't rely on inner tubes or water toys to keep you afloat. Know your limits. Each year many people drown by overestimating their swimming skills and swimming beyond their limits.

Do not dive or jump from cliffs. Walla Walla District prohibits cliff diving and jumping because of the associated dangers.  Many cliffs have a shelf or shallow slope underneath the water line.  What you can’t see is what could injure you.

Beware of cold water temperatures. Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it. This can happen in any season, especially in the Pacific Northwest, where water temperatures remain low all year.


With the current seasonal water-supply forecast in the upper Snake River basin estimated at about 62 percent of normal, reduced water levels in the river, particularly upstream of the Salmon River confluence in Idaho, may be unsafe for power boaters and other types of water recreation.

Boaters in the Hell’s Canyon National Recreation Area must obtain a permit from the U.S. Forest Service to launch their vessels there www.fs.usda.gov/detail/wallowa-whitman/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5227104.  Water levels frequently fluctuate, so be sure to check the on-site water-level gauges to evaluate the boating risk. Boaters can also check the Hell’s Canyon Dam’s outflow forecast on Idaho Power’s website www.idahopower.com/OurEnvironment/WaterInformation/Hellsrivflw/default.cfm.  Hell’s Canyon Dam officials have also issued news releases advising boaters of the risk downstream www.idahopower.com/NewsCommunity/News/NewsReleases/default.cfm.

Corps recreation officials caution all Snake River users to be alert to changes in water elevation and volume of flow. Boat operators should also keep the fluctuating water levels in mind when anchoring or tying-off their vessels. Here are some additional safe-boating tips:

Wear your life jacket. Ensure properly fitting, accessible and serviceable life vests are available for each occupant on your boat. Better yet, wear them.

Check the serviceability of your boat and take a boating safety course. Know the rules before you boat. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that the majority of boating-related fatalities involve operators who have not received any boating safety instruction.

Know the weather and have a float plan. Changing weather conditions can create unsafe situations on open water. 

Watch for floating hazards in the water.  As snowpacks melt into high-flowing streams and tributaries, large amounts of floating wood – ranging in size from small twigs to telephone pole-sized logs – are often swept into rivers.  The debris can pose a danger to boaters, swimmers and others out enjoying the water. 

Don't drink and boat. About half of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation involve alcohol use.  This is about one in five reported boating fatalities. Just one beer might impair your balance, vision, judgment and reaction time, thus making you a potential danger to yourself and others. Don't include alcohol in your outing if you are planning to have fun in, on, or near the water.


For more information on these and other water-safety tips please visit the Corps' water safety website at http://watersafety.usace.army.mil/safetytips.htm. Site-specific recreation information is available on the Corps’ website: www.nww.usace.army.mil/corpsoutdoors.



Release no. 13-047