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Water recreation in Missouri is part of our heritage — a rich tradition that likely goes back before our statehood.

We enjoy swimming, boating and floating. Perhaps we appreciate water recreation more than many other states because we have only a few months of the year to enjoy our outdoor water recreation. Perhaps it's because we have so many opportunities in Missouri's pools, lakes, rivers and waterparks.

But our love of water during the summer also requires more attention to safety.

When swimming, the Missouri Highway Patrol urges you to wear a life jacket, take a friend with you, know your swimming ability and stay sober around water. Pay close attention to children around water. Missouri's lakes and rivers can include currents, drop-offs and floating debris that make swimming more challenging. Exhaustion is a very real possibility if you've been swimming for a long period of time.

When floating, check the weather and the river level before you go. A lot of rain affects the speed of the current and the amount of debris in the water. Know the river conditions before you go. Be aware of changing conditions downstream. Consider each person's level of experience, and base your float plan on the person with the least experience. Pair inexperienced floaters with those who have more experience, and make sure everyone in your group knows your rescue plan.

Bring a life jacket for each person, dry clothing and a first aid kit. Store extra items in watertight containers. Everyone should use a life jacket, especially those vulnerable to drowning, such as children and adults drinking alcohol.

When boating, pay attention to other watercraft, and never operate a vessel if you've consumed alcohol.

Many injuries suffered on our lakes during the boating season occur when boats travel across large wakes and the operator or passengers are injured from the impact. Each boater should do their best to reduce the size of their wake and know how to navigate across large wakes.

At night, remember to check your vessel's navigation lights before heading out, and be sure to have spare bulbs on board.

If you need assistance or witness criminal activity on Missouri's waterways contact the nearest Highway Patrol troop headquarters by calling the Patrol Emergency Report Line at 1-800-525-5555 or *55 on a cellular phone.

This summer, plan ahead for safety so you can have peace of mind while enjoying our state's diverse water recreation.

News Tribune

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