If your plans for keeping cool this summer include taking a dip in a river or lake in the Brazos River basin, you’ve made a good choice. There are many opportunities to take the edge off the heat at Possum Kingdom, Limestone and Granbury lakes, as well as the Brazos and its tributaries.

But before you head out, please keep in mind swimming out in nature adds some safety issues one can easily avoid with a little forethought.

Here are some tips to help make your next swimming trip at the lake or river a safe one:

  • Find a swimming buddy. It always helps to have someone watch out for you in case you get in trouble, and you can do the same for them. Try to swim, if possible, in areas with lifeguards.
  • Stick to designated swimming areas. The Brazos River Authority has set aside swimming areas with markers to keep people and watercraft well apart. Going beyond these areas, you not only run the risk of getting closer to boating activity, you also may get out into areas with currents you would not find in the designated areas.
  • Avoid stagnant water and areas marked with “Do Not Swim” signs. These areas might increase your risk of exposure to waterborne illnesses. For more information about this topic, please click here.
  • Be aware of issues related to lower lake levels. The drought has lake levels falling and that may make it tempting to go out beyond the designated area in an effort to find deeper water. But outside the provided swimming areas there may be sudden drop-offs that could cause problems for novice swimmers. Some drownings in Texas lakes have been attributed to this cause already this year.
  • Supervise children at all times around water. It only takes a moment for a child to slip beneath the surface. If a young one is in the water, an adult should be nearby watching, available at all moments if trouble arises.
  • Be educated. Make sure children have taken swimming lessons or are with someone who knows how to swim. Also, learning life-saving skills, such as CPR and rescue techniques, can prove a life-saver. Many organizations offer such training.
  • Avoid alcohol. It can impair one's judgment in the best of circumstances. Not only can it add risks to adult swimmers, but it can be a distraction to those tasked with keeping an eye on children.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. It’s easy to get dehydrated in the sun, particularly when you are active in the water and may not notice right away.
  • Don’t get sunburned. Water reflecting off the water can compound the problem. When one is having fun playing in the water it is easy to lose track of time and get too much sun. Make sure to wear sunscreen and reapply regularly.
  • Use floatation devices. Everyone, but especially children can benefit from lifejackets. Having an extra floatation device on hand in case of emergency is a smart move.
  • Be careful about diving. Typically, swimming areas are much too shallow for safe diving. Dive only in areas you know to be deep enough, and where it is not prohibited.

There is a whole summer full of fun ahead of us. With a little care and planning we can make sure the next visit to the water is a safe one.