VALLEJO, Calif. — May 23, 2022. As we prepare to honor the heroes who gave their lives in military service to this nation this Memorial Day weekend, the USDA Forest Service is also preparing for an influx of visitors to national forests. This traditional kickoff of the summer season is a chance to highlight the importance of water safety. Many popular campgrounds and hiking trails are adjacent to lakes and rivers where water conditions can change rapidly.

May is Water Safety Month, and the USDA Forest Service reminds visitors to plan ahead before visiting any of the 18 national forests in California. First, check the Interactive Visitor Map for alerts on sites and trails. Have alternative destinations in mind in case you arrive at an area that is closed or overcrowded.

Practice these helpful water safety tips as part of your trip planning:

  • Know before you go: Check the weather forecast and water conditions.
  • Know how to swim: Cold water can be dangerous, even on warm days. Learning to swim is the No. 1 water safety priority.
  • Take life jackets and essential gear: Life jackets are affordable and easy to find; loaners may not be available on-site. Pack essential gear for boats or vessels, like navigation devices and paddle floats.
  • Designate a water watcher: Select someone to watch over the group, especially young children, when near or in the water. 
  • Learn how to respond: If someone is in trouble, call 911 and get help. To assist – Reach, Throw, Don’t Go. If you are in trouble – Flip, Float, Relax.
  • Respect water: Water can be powerful. Obey posted safety signs. Learn to read water conditions and stay alert. Tell someone your plans before heading out.
  • Leave your site cleaner than you found it: All water sources are connected and home to fish and other life. Protect our waters; pack out what you pack in.

“This year has been especially busy at national forests, and we expect an increase in water sports on our forests’ lakes and rivers starting Memorial Day weekend,” said Jim Bacon, Director of Public Services for the Pacific Southwest Region. “Plan for safety in the water and on land, because everyone plays an important role in keeping our forests and waterways sustainable.”

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