State park waters dangerous in spring |

State park waters dangerous in spring

California State Parks is preparing for a dramatic increase to the number of visitors to its 278 park units as warm weather and sunny skies begin to take hold.

“Our intention here is to alert the public and ask for their help in making this a safe spring in our parks,” Ted Jackson, California State Parks deputy director for operations, stated in a media release.

In visitor surveys, one of the primary reasons for visiting for parks has something to do with water. Whether walking along a beach or viewing California’s coastline, or surfing, swimming, fishing or boating, park visitors enjoy the water.

“Spring can be a particularly dangerous time for aquatic recreation in California State Parks,” stated Alex Peabody, aquatic safety specialist.

In the lakes, reservoirs and rivers that flow through state parks, dangers may include:

— Very cold water temperatures from snow melt and spring rains.

— Fluctuating water levels due to water releases from the dams and increases in water run-off from melting snows.

— Very high river flows from run-off

Along the coast dangers can include:

— Colder water temperature in the ocean; temperatures in the low to mid 50 degrees are common from Southern to Northern California

— Large, rough surf conditions.

— Strong powerful rip currents due to uneven ocean bottom from winter storms.

— Fewer on-duty lifeguards in the spring than in the summer.

Rescue statistics compiled by California State Parks in 2005 show lifeguards and rangers performed 5,827 water rescues.

“The majority of those rescues were accomplished by our seasonal lifeguard staff,” stated Peabody.

During that period there 24 drownings, however, records show that none of the drownings occurred in guarded water areas.

“Drowning continues to be the leading cause of accidental death in our state parks,” stated Peabody. According to the parks department, drowning accounted for 45 percent of accidental deaths in California State Parks in 2005.

For more information on aquatic safety in California State Parks, visit

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