Tips for Enjoying Water Activities Safely

August 5, 2022


John Lyon
Strategic Communications Manager

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The Natural State offers plenty of opportunities for water activities, with more than 2,000 lakes and reservoirs as well as numerous rivers, creeks, swimming holes, and public swimming pools. Unfortunately, Arkansas also has one of the highest accidental drowning death rates in the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only seven states had higher rates of drowning deaths than Arkansas between 2015 and 2019.

Nationwide, an estimated 3,960 people die from accidental drowning each year, or about 11 per day. For children ages 1 to 4, drowning is the second-leading cause of death. These tips can help you and your family stay safe while having fun in or on the water:


  • Know how to swim. If you do not know how or are not a strong swimmer, obtaining formal swimming lessons can reduce your chances of drowning.
  • Swim in supervised areas. Follow all signs and warnings.
  • Swim with a friend. Do not allow anyone to swim alone.
  • Always keep an eye on children. Teach children to ask permission before going near water.
  • Select swimwear for your kids that will be easy to spot when they are in the water.
  • Do not dive into shallow water. If you don’t know the depth of the water, don’t dive.
  • If you see storm clouds or lightning, get out of the water.
  • If you get caught in a strong current, don’t fight it. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current.
  • Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Reapply every time you get out of the water.
  • Assume that whenever you enter any body of warm freshwater, there is a low level of risk of encountering the so-called “brain-eating ameba,” Naegleria fowleri. You can avoid this and other dangerous microscopic organisms by swimming in water that has been properly treated with chlorine. If you do swim in warm freshwater, limit the amount of water going up your nose by holding your nose, wearing nose clips, or keeping your head above water.

Boating, Canoeing, Kayaking, or Water Skiing

  • Take a course. Most accidents involving watercraft are caused by operator error.
  • Get a safety check for your boat. Vessel safety checks are a free public service offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron volunteer organizations.
  • Learn the rules of navigation before setting out in a boat.
  • Check the weather forecast, and stay off the water if it calls for storms.
  • Be aware of river conditions. The U.S. Geological Survey maintains a National Water Dashboard that monitors flow levels and other data.
  • Do not go on the water alone, especially if you are inexperienced.
  • Wear a properly fitted lifejacket.
  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol use affects your judgment, vision, balance, and coordination. Drinking and operating watercraft is just as dangerous as drinking and driving.

For more safety tips:

The CDC has information on swimming and boating safety.

The Arkansas Department of Health has information on safe and healthy swimming.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has information on boater education.