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Respect the Rivers from Me – “The River Rat” and My Family

Nebraska rivers are scenic, wonderful ecosystems.

The Elkhorn River in northwestern Sarpy County.

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.

Main Channel of the Elkhorn River.

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!

The Wagner Family always wears their Life Jackets Swimming in Dark Water where there is a Current!

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!

Another Shot of the Elkhorn River.

About greg wagner

A native of Gretna, NE, a graduate of Gretna High School and Bellevue University, Greg Wagner currently serves as the Public Information Officer and Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Service Center in Omaha. On a weekly basis, Wagner can be heard on a number of radio stations, seen on local television in Omaha, and on social media channels, creatively conveying natural resource conservation messages as well as promoting outdoor activities and destinations in Nebraska. Wagner, whose career at Game and Parks began in 1979, walks, talks, lives, breathes and blogs about Nebraska’s outdoors. He grew up in rural Gretna, building forts in the woods, hunting, fishing, collecting leaves, and generally thriving on constant outdoor activity. One of the primary goals of his blog is to get people, especially young ones, to have fun and spend time outside!

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