Rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike.
I see you! Do you see me? Some animals you encounter may be hangry, like this rattlesnake. So, don't put body parts where you can't see them and use the "Rule of Thumb." If you see an animal, stick your thumb up at arm's length and back up until your thumb completely covers the animal.

NPS / JC Frost

The National Park Service invites you to Plan like a Park Ranger in preparation for your big adventure at Amistad National Recreation Area. Being prepared will help keep you safe and enjoying all that this great park has to offer. Check ahead to see what the current conditions are for weather and environment at the park and have an action plan for any unexpected weather, like thunderstorms. Follow the seven Leave No Trace principles to help keep the park safe and unimpared for the enjoyment of future generations, as well. While the following list is not all-inclusive, it will help with some special considerations for your trip planning.


In general, animals in national parks are protected from being fed and harassed. Furthermore, even the most harmless-looking animals can injure a person or spread disease. So, it is important to use the "Rule of Thumb." If you see an animal, back up slowly until you can cover your entire view of the animal with your thumb held at full arm's-length (and a few extra steps wouldn't hurt).


Though it can be easy to forget with the reservoir being a highlight, Amistad National Recreation Area is in a desert biome. The desert is an extreme environment. Carry enough water, about one gallon per person per day even in the winter, and drink water before you feel thirsty. Water is available at Visitor Center, Diablo East, and Governors Landing, but also come prepared and bring water with you to the park. Do not drink untreated water, as it can make your situation worse if you become ill due to naturally occuring bacteria. Eating salty snacks will help replenish the salts that are sweated out and help make sweating more effective.

Chart providing information about heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn, and heat rash. Click chart for link to text equivalent on CDC site.
Progression of Heat-Related Illnesses from Life-threatening to Less Dangerous

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Weather-related Illnesses

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses more fluid than is taken in. Signs of heat exhaustion can include some or all of the following: nausea, vomiting, fatigue/weakness, lightheadedness/fainting, headache, pale appearance, muscle cramps, fast and weak pulse, and cool and clammy skin. If a member of your party begins to experience any of these symptoms, stop your activity immediately. In most cases, you can treat heat exhaustion yourself by doing the following:

  • Rest in a cool place. Getting into an air-conditioned building is best, but at the very least, find a shady spot or sit in front of a fan. Rest on your back with your legs elevated higher than your heart level.
  • Drink cool fluids. Sip water or sports drinks. Don't drink any alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, which can contribute to dehydration.
  • Try cooling measures. If possible, take a cool shower, soak in a cool bath, or put towels soaked in cool water on your skin. If you're outdoors and not near shelter, soaking in a cool pond or stream can help bring your temperature down.
  • Loosen clothing. Remove any unnecessary clothing and make sure your clothes are lightweight and non-binding.

If you don't begin to feel better within one hour of using these treatment measures or you feel worse or start to vomit, seek medical attention immediately.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is an advanced stage of heat exhaustion. It is the body's inability to cool itself. Symptoms include high body temperature (103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher), dry and flushed/reddened skin, confusion, nausea/vomiting, altered mental state (i.e., disorientation, confusion, agitation, irritability), behavioral changes (i.e., slurred speech, delirium, staggering), rapid heartbeat or breathing, and seizures or coma. If you believe that a member of your party is suffering from heat stroke, it is imperative to cool them using any available means and obtain immediate medical assistance. Heat stroke is a medical emergency.


Hypothermia occurs when the body is cooled to dangerous levels. It is responsible for the greatest number of deaths among people engaging in outdoor activities. Possible even in warm weather, hypothermia often occurs without the victim's awareness. It is a hazard on the lake because immersion in water is the quickest way to lose body heat. To prevent hypothermia, avoid cotton clothing (it provides no insulation when wet) and eat high-energy food before you are chilled. The signs of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, stumbling and poor coordination, fatigue, and confusion or slurred speech. If you recognize any of these signs, stop what you are doing and immediately replace wet clothing with dry clothing. It may also be necessary to warm the person and move them out of the wind.

Two people kayaking in the reservoir's clear waters.
Paddling is a great way to enjoy being on the clear waters of Amistad Reservoir.

NPS / J. Johnson

Additional Safety Considerations by Activity


Boating is one of the most popular activities at Amistad National Recreation Area. The number of boaters on the lake can vary from just a handful to over 200 when there is a large fishing tournament going on. Remember to follow these safety tips when boating on the reservoir:

  • Prepare yourself and your vessel.
  • All boaters must have the required safety equipment onboard their vessels.
  • Lake levels fluctuate often, so be vigilant for submersed debris or other hazards, some of which may not appear on depth finders.
  • Observe "No Wake" zones and speed limits to keep other people safe, too.
  • Always wear an appropriate life jacket and know what to do if you fall overboard.
  • Bring an extra change of clothes for each person and store in a dry bag or your car.


Every year, white-tailed deer and other wildlife are killed by vehicles on the roads surrounding Amistad National Recreation Area. Please drive with caution, especially from sunset to sunrise when animals are more active along roads, ambient light is minimal, and drivers (you or others) are more likely to be tired or sleepy. Always wear safety belts and use child safety seats.


Hiking is one of the many recreational activities that is available at Amistad National Recreational Area. There are several designated hiking trails throughout the park. Remember a well-planned hike is a safe hike.

  • Always tell someone where you are going and when you should be back.
  • Take a map and a light source...even if you think you won't be out after dark.
  • Wear closed-toed shoes and dress in appropriate clothing to protect you from bugs, sun, and spiny or thorny plants. Long pants are recommended.
  • Don't put body parts in or near areas you can't see into or hike through brushy or grassy areas without probing them with a long stick. A venemous critter may be in there and try to protect itself.
  • Bring a first aid kit, including a little extra of any medications you may need in case you are out longer than you anticipated. In addition to the standard supplies, adding a large, leaf bag can be useful as emergency rain protection or shelter, as well as for picking up trash.
  • Wear a hat and use sunglasses and sun protection.
  • Cell phone service is usually reliable within the park and can be helpful if needed in an emergency, but don't rely on it solely.


There are no lifeguards at Amistad National Recreation Area. Swim at your own risk. The National Park Service recommends that everyone, especially children and those with limited or no swimming experience wear USCG-approved personal floatation devices (PFDs) appropriate to the activity at all times when in and around water and along shorelines.


Other Health and Safety Information

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    Tags: health disease

    Last updated: May 3, 2024

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