Know before you go

When the weather turns warmer, many people seek relief in our rivers, lakes and streams. But natural waterways can dangerous. Be aware of swift currents, cool water temperatures, hidden hazards, and uneven bottom surfaces,.

 Adults should only allow children to go into the water:

  • With permission

  • With a life jacket

  • With an adult watching at all times 

Sandy River: cold and fast

Four people have died since June 2021 in the Sandy River. The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office warns the Sandy River has cooler temperatures and a flow faster than other rivers in the area. Swimming in the Sandy River can be challenging even for the most experienced swimmers. Please wear a life vest and make sure there are lifeguard in the area.

Willamette River closed to dogs

Beginning Aug. 5: owners are advised to not let dogs swim in or drink from the Willamette River from Sauvie Island to Ross Island. due to current toxic algae bloom. 
Blue-green algae toxin poisoning, also known as cyanobacterial poisoning, is an acute, sometimes fatal, condition caused by the ingestion of water containing high concentrations of cyanobacteria.
In Oregon, dogs have become very sick, and some have died after swimming in and swallowing water affected by toxic algae.
Poisonings are most likely to occur during warm, sunny weather when algae blooms are more intense, and dense surface scums are present. If you find thick, brightly colored foam or scum at a lake, pond or river, don’t let your pet drink or swim in the water.

How to cool off safely

The AMR River Rescue Program, which has trained lifeguards and provided river safety in East County since 1999, recommends if you are going into natural waterways:

  • Swim only in safe areas (ie. avoid rapids, waterfalls, rocks, super-cold water, etc.)

  • Be aware of cold shock—which can weaken even the strongest swimmers!

  • Wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket when in and around water-- especially important for children and non-swimming adults. (Water wings are not life jackets!)

  • Assign a "Water Watcher"-- a responsible adult to supervise children around water at all times!  Never leave children alone or unsupervised near water! 

  • Learn to swim 

  • Learn CPR

  • Never swim alone

  • Do not use intoxicants and swim or boat

  • What if you see someone who is in trouble in the water?

  • Call (or have someone call) 9-1-1 immediately!  

  • "Throw -- Don't go!" unless you are trained in water rescue.  Would-be rescuers easily become second victims.  

  • If available, throw a life ring, buoy, or other floating object to the victim while you are waiting for 9-1-1 responders.  

  • Sometimes you can 'talk' victims into helping themselves by instructing them to float with the current instead of fighting against it: float feet first downstream, guide yourself to calm, shallow water, etc. 

For information about life jackets:

Find a map of beaches with loaner life jackets and learn how to select the right life jacket.

Find a list of where to learn to swim classes here

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