Your lifejacket can't save you if you don't wear it.
A premier attraction of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is the Middle Delaware Scenic and Recreational River-nearly forty miles of free-flowing fun. In addition to the Delaware, visitors might visit any number of our creeks, streams, ponds and mountain lakes for recreation and relaxation. Playing on or near water can be thrilling, or relaxing, but it also has the potential to be extremely dangerous. Please plan your day with these precautions in mind:
- All children aged 12 and under MUST wear US Coast Guard approved lifejackets at all times when on the river.
- Jackets must fit appropriately, and be fully fastened to be effective. Wearing a life jacket is not just common sense, it is THE LAW.
- Floaties, water wings, noodles, and other pool toys are NOT Coast Guard approved floatation devices, and will not save your child from drowning.
- Lifejackets and personal flotation devices aren't just for kids. Any person paddling or boating MUST have their own US Coast Guard approved lifejacket or PFD onboard and readily accessible in case of emergency.
- Boaters must wear lifejackets on boats less than 16 feet in length and on canoes and on kayaks, from November 1 through April 30. This regulation is intended to protect boaters from the dangers of cold water shock if they fall into the water.
- Set a good example for everyone, and wear your lifejacket at all times. They work much better when you wear them.
Swimming Safety Basics
- Always wear a lifejacket.
- Know your limits. Many drownings are the result of overconfidence. Whether it's swimming in dangerous conditions, attempts to dive from great heights, or swim vast distances, people often overestimate what they can do leading to tragedy. Don't become a statistic.
- Never try to swim across the river.
- Never drink then swim.
The Delaware River is not a swimming pool. Hazards include:
- Dangerous debris on the river bed (i.e., broken glass, metal, etc.)
- Steep drop-offs
- Strong currents
- Strainers (obstacles like trees, rocks, root systems, etc). Strainers allow water to pass through easily enough, but boats and people will get trapped against them.
- Boat traffic
Contrary to popular opinion, drowning is not a loud, splashy scene. It generally happens quickly and silently. Learn to recognize the signs of drowning, and be vigilant when watching your children and loved ones enjoying the water.
If your canoe, kayak, or raft should break or capsize, taking swift action may save your life:
- Remain calm; water temperature or sheer surprise in the moment may cause you to inhale suddenly and deeply as part of your body's natural survival response, but ironically, this can cause you to ingest water and begin to drown.
- Even when capsized and swamped, most canoes and kayaks will still float, and can help you to stay afloat, too. Move to the upstream end of your vessel, if possible, to avoid being pinned between it and any debris or strainers downstream.
- Whether or not you are able to cling to your swamped boat, lay on your back with your legs and feet pointed downstream, to avoid injury to your lower limbs, and deflect submerged obstacles.
- Never attempt to stand in rapids or fast-moving water.
- When you feel you have regained some control of your boat or person with respect to the current, attempt to move toward either shore.
- Boats, paddles, and gear are far less valuable than YOUR LIFE. It is more important that you get yourself and your loved ones to shore than it is that you recover your boat and belongings.