News release: DNR: Safety must be the priority around cold water

April 27, 2023

Lake ice is gone – or on its way out – across much of the state, so the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reminds anyone around lakes, rivers and ponds that cold water is dangerous and unexpected falls can quickly turn tragic.

About 30% of fatal boating accidents each year happen during the cold-water period, and many involve victims who weren’t wearing a life jacket. The most effective way to survive a fall into cold water is to wear a life jacket and make sure the jacket is buckled or zipped.

“So many of us wait impatiently all winter to get back on the water,” said Lt. Adam Block, boating law administrator for the DNR Enforcement Division. “It can be easy to let your guard down because you’re so excited, but the reality is failing to double down on safety this time of year can have disastrous consequences.”

When boaters and paddlers are on early season open water, they should:

  • Wear a foam-filled life jacket (inflatable life jackets might not fully inflate when the water is cold). Anyone on the ice should wear a foam life jacket or float coat and carry ice picks.
  • Ensure their watercraft is registered and equipped with proper safety equipment, and that all equipment is functioning properly.
  • Distribute weight evenly and abide by manufacturers’ weight limits to reduce the likelihood of falling overboard.
  • Have a means of communication and ensure someone knows where they’re going and when they plan to return.
  • Watch the weather to avoid shifting winds or storms.

For more information about staying safe on and around cold water, visit the DNR’s cold water safety page.

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