Life Jacket Loaner Program


Renting a boat from an authorized concessionaire? They will provide life jackets for your party. Bringing your own boat? You are required to bring your own life jacket. If you forget, we can help you out.

Park visitors may borrow life jackets free of charge to use while at the river. Please use them and return them when you leave the river. Remember: every vessel must have a life vest (personal flotation device) for each person on board the vessel. Children under age 13 must wear a securely fastened life vest while on board any vessel. All life vests must be (1) U.S. Coast Guard approved, (2) in safe and serviceable condition, and (3) of proper size for the person wearing it.

Life jackets are available at the Tyler Bend Visitor Center, Buffalo Point Ranger Station, and Steel Creek Visitor Contact Station. A variety of sizes from infant to oversized adult life jackets are available. Please return life jackets to the loaner station that you got them from when you have finished with them.

Boy in a life jacket
Child wearing a life jacket while playing in the river.

Swim Safe. Life jackets save lives.

Do you have on a life jacket so you can help your child if he/she falls in the river? Can you swim fast enough, maybe against the current, to reach him/her in time?

A child can drown in as little as twenty seconds. Wearing a life jacket can allow time for a successful rescue.

Accidents happen - they don't have to be fatal.

  • Always wear a life jacket.
  • Even experienced swimmers can get into trouble.
  • The river is not your backyard pool. The river has an uneven bottom and debris can make steady footing difficult.
  • Inflatable toys, arm bands, loungers, and swim noodles are not life jackets.
  • Children should always wear life jackets when playing in or even NEAR the water.
  • Always swim with a buddy.
  • Diving is dangerous, don't do it.

How to Properly Fit a Life Jacket

  1. Check the life jacket label for the appropriate weight or chest size. The life jacket label will indicate the size and weight on the intended user. Make the wearer is within these ranges. Verify that the life jacket label states it is "Coast Guard approved."
  2. Put the life jacket on. Inspect the life jacket for wear and tear. Warning signs include rips and missing or broken buckles or straps.
  3. Buckle all straps and tighten or zip up all zippers. Make sure all straps can be buckled and zippers zipped. Don't forget the crotch strap if there is one.
  4. Have the wearer lift their arms over their head and gently lift them by the top of the life jacket arm openings. If the jacket rides up above their ears, it is too big. If the straps or zippers don't close, the jacket is too small.

This life jacket loaner program is brought to you by Buffalo National River, Eastern National, and Sea Tow Foundation.

Little girl in life jacket
Little girl wearing a life jacket.

NPS Photo

It's great to cool off at the river on a hot day.

Wear a properly fitted, U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket while in or near the water. It might save a life.

Last updated: June 26, 2022

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