Summer is here, which means your days are getting longer and hotter. With the warmest temperatures we’ve had in a while, large bodies of water are looking nicer and nicer. Be careful, though! Not all bodies of water are created equal. Dams, smaller, low-head dams in particular, look unintimidating but are very, very dangerous.
Do you canoe or kayak? Know whether you’ll be floating on a body of water with a dam, where the dam is relative to you, and whether you are upstream (above), the dam or downstream (below), the dam. Low head dams especially can be difficult to see from upstream, so scout ahead and know where you’re going so you can avoid them!
Like to swim? Under no circumstances should a swimmer swim above, below, or anywhere near a dam or dam structures. Do not dive off of them. As mentioned earlier, smaller, low-head dams can be deceptively deceiving. Due to the design of the dam, many have strong, underwater currents that can easily and unexpectedly pull even the strongest swimmers under the water.
Basic points to remember: do not swim above, dive from, or boat on a dam, as currents under the surface, regardless of how the water looks on the surface, can be strong and pull you underwater, against structures, or through the dam. Do not boat, fish, or swim immediately upstream or downstream from a dam, as water levels can change quickly and currents can be strong. Areas near dams can flood quickly, so be cognizant of where you picnic, sunbathe, or camp. Essentially, stay away from dams and all associated dams structures unless they’re specifically marked for public travel.
Don’t worry; there are plenty of other places to go! Check out DCR’s list of freshwater inland beaches here, canoe and kayak spots here, and a general list of activities and their corresponding areas here. Happy summering!