Our View: Think, prepare before you swim
Nevada County has a proverb — wait until July before you jump in the river.
It’s good advice. The South Yuba River, a great place to relax and cool off, is deadly. Snowmelt enters the river, making it cold and fast. Make the wrong move, have the water push you the wrong way, and you’re dead.
One woman almost died last month. If not for the quick action of three bystanders, she might not be here.
Christian Cotter no longer is. Authorities said the 23-year-old Elk Grove man died Tuesday after he went over a waterfall and got his ankle stuck between some rocks.
Despite his death, you can bet a crowd will gather at the Highway 49 bridge just hours after this paper hits your driveway.
There’s nothing wrong about enjoying the river. It’s one of our county’s best assets. However, the death of one person and near death of another within the past few weeks reminds us that we must exercise caution.
For starters, get some water sandals. It’s easy to slip on a rock and be in the water in seconds. It’s also easy to cut your feet on sharp rocks when in the river.
Take your time and know your surroundings. The riverbed changes over the years. Just because you’re an old hand doesn’t mean you won’t find yourself in the water against your will.
And remember — the water is extremely cold right now. It’s fast. It has a strong chance of overpowering you when you don’t expect it, regardless of your strength or swimming ability.
Many of us have pride in our swimming skills, abilities that disappear in strong currents and frigid water. No one should think they can beat the river. It will sap your strength, no matter your age or ability. Water always wins.
Just as we care for ourselves, we should look out for others. Plenty of folks outside Nevada County know about and use our water holes. They might not be as savvy as those of us who frequent these spots, and could use a little help.
Maybe you’ll see someone or a group of people considering a quick dip. Consider approaching them with some advice, offering it in a friendly and respectful manner. Tell them the cold water can cause an immediate shock to the body. They could start hyperventilating, and hypothermia potentially isn’t far away.
Some people likely will roll their eyes at your safety tips. Others will gladly accept it. Either way, it’s worth the try if it saves a life.
There are plenty of wild, unworkable ideas to keep people safe. Install temporary fencing along the Highway 49 bridge. Prohibit people from entering the water. Remove the parking lot. Tow any vehicle that dares to park along the road in that area.
A knee-jerk reaction, an over-reaction like this would remove one of our county’s most beautiful spots from the public. Instead let’s educate ourselves, our friends and the visitors who seek out amazing venues like the South Yuba River for summer fun.
Stick to the rule of thumb — don’t think about getting in the water until July 1.
After all, we’d like to see you again next year.
Our View is the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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