Nebraska rivers are scenic, wonderful ecosystems.
They offer a wide variety of outdoor recreation and certainly look inviting on a hot summer day as a place to cool off. But rivers are inherently dangerous and demand respect! They have dark water, dynamically changing depths and conditions, snags and debris in spots below the surfaces of the water as well as swift, swirling currents.
As a young fella with my immediate family, I grew up utilizing the Platte River River for recreation in Sarpy County nearly every weekend for many summers. I am a self-proclaimed “River Rat.”And, to this day, I still thoroughly enjoy, but completely respect dark water with currents, as does my entire family!
Here are the important river safety tips to always remember:
*NO. 1. Wear a life jacket (No matter how well you can swim – it’s dark water that can be very deep with unseen obstacles and a swift-moving current).
*NO. 2 Wear river sandals or an old pair of tennis shoes (You don’t know what’s on the bottom of the river that can cut up your feet).
*NO. 3 By using a tall stick (willow stick) from the bank, as best as you can, check the depth and condition of water that you want to swim or wade in the river. Remind river swimmers that there is no diving allowed in dark water!
*NO. 4 Buddy up with a partner (Staying close together, keeping a close eye on each other, kids an arm’s length away). With a group, even go so far as to designate a couple lifeguards (strong swimmers) to take turns monitoring everyone.
*NO. 5 Stay off of and away from any logs or partially sunken trees in the water. (Again, with dark water, you don’t know what’s underneath them that could entangle you!)
Some additional reminders about swimming off of river sandbars. If the sandbars are on private land, don’t trespass, make certain to get permission from the owner or owners before treading on them. Respect private property and our river ecosystems, be sure to pack out all of your trash leaving only footprints behind! Also, Joel Jorgensen of Game and Parks would want me to point out that folks on sandbars should avoid violating the Endangered Species Act and the Nebraska Nongame and Endangered Species Act by keeping the appropriate distance from nesting shorebirds — Interior Least Terns and Piping Plovers. Enjoy the natural beauty and fun our Nebraska rivers, but respect them!