My son enjoying the use of a loaner life jacket, borrowed from the Pine Docks' station at Anderson Ranch Reservoir. He was able to confidently enjoy the water while I had peace of mind letting him try new things.
Well its no secret that I don't like the triple digit temperatures of a southern Idaho summer. However, for as much as I whine about the heat, I absolutely love summer time activities.
I love hiking, biking fishing and camping. Anything that gets me into the hills and out in nature really, but one of my favorite parts of summer is being on the water. I've always been a water baby, a fish is what my grandpa used to refer to me as. I used to be willing to swim in mountain lakes so early in the year, that he would swear that I was going to turn blue and come out as a popsicle. There is just nothing like spending a day playing in the water or now that I'm older enjoying a leisurely float with a friend on a lake somewhere. I love that we have all of the opportunities to enjoy water time so close to home here in Elmore County and I enjoy seeing other people taking their children out to enjoy it as well.
With all of that being said though there is something that eats at my soul, especially at the rate this summer has been going, and that is the lack of children wearing life jackets and taking other precautions. We have had two individuals drown in our county so far this year and lost two more individuals with county ties in an accident on the water. I can't remember the exact statistic, but at some point early this month I read how we were already topping out on the average number of water related deaths for the whole summer season in the state of Idaho. I'm not saying all of these accidents could have been prevented with the use of a life jacket, I'm just saying they should remind people that children should be wearing life jackets when they are on or near the water. State law says that individuals 14 and under are required to wear one on vessels under 19 feet, yet I often see that rule ignored. In a world where one wouldn't dare to allow their children to drive around in a vehicle without being properly restrained, why is it okay to allow them to float on a raft, canoe, or kayak without the proper floatation devices?
For all of you thinking well my child is a very good swimmer, accidents happen, things occur that are beyond their control. You're a good driver, but you make them use their booster seats or their seatbelt, because something could happen that is beyond your control. So what's the difference?
Want to spend the day on the lake, but don't have a proper fitting life jacket for your child and can't find/afford to get them one to use for just one day. Well, you're in luck. Most waterways in Idaho now have life jacket loaner stations, take the life jacket for the day and bring it back when you are finished. There are even signs explaining how to pick a properly fitting life jacket for your child.
Some of the areas that I know of that have these stations included Black Sands, the King Hill Boat Ramp, Glenns Ferry Boat Docks (Hammett will get one as soon as their docks are up and running). I know for a fact that the Pine Docks do and I'm sure other areas on Anderson such as Curlew and Deer Creek do as well, I just haven't stopped at either spot lately.
My son grows like a weed and I got tired of going through items like that so quickly, so we always make sure we take him swimming somewhere close to one of these stations and he knows he is not allowed onto any docks or into the water before he is properly secured into one. My daughter is a very good swimmer who has been swimming since she was a year old. The rule was the same for her and truthfully, in my opinion, the children like my daughter are the ones you have to worry more about at times because they are too confident in their abilities.
I've seen small children allowed to go out on the water on paddleboards, kayaks or canoes with older people without a life jacket and had it explained that it's fine because if something happens there is an adult with them. Really? In the middle of something like tipping over, with the water very possibly over your head as well, you're telling me you aren't going to become so panicked that things go wrong. You're trusting that your toddler or infant isn't going to slip out of your arms before you realize what is happening. I'm sorry, but I find that comment kind of asinine. Our children are too precious to take that type of chance on their well being.
Please enjoy all of the recreational opportunities that our beautiful area affords us, but do it responsibly and safely.