Swimming in a natural body of water, such as a lake, river or ocean, is inherently riskier than swimming in a pool. Currents, water clarity and underwater obstacles can make swimming more dangerous for even the experienced swimmer. Below please find some tips for keeping the whole family safe this summer.

• Make sure to swim in an area overseen by lifeguards. If you're swimming in open water and there is no lifeguard present, use a life jacket.

• Be cautious when diving or jumping into cloudy water. Rocks or other debris may not be visible and can cause serious injury. If jumping from a rocky outcrop or high shore line, leap out and away from the edge as far as possible, and wear a life jacket.

• If you and your family are participating in water sports, such as skiing, surfing, wakeboarding or kneeboarding, make sure there is someone in the boat with eyes on the person in the water at all times. Should the person fall while skiing or boarding, hold up a bright orange flag and alert the driver immediately so he or she can turn the boat around and return to the person. This is especially important if the lake is busy with other boaters. The flag alerts other boaters that someone is in the water.

• When preparing to go to the beach or on a boat, make sure children are in size-appropriate life jackets. Jackets that are too large may slip off, and jackets that are too small may stretch and tear or make it difficult to remove if the jacket becomes snagged on something. All states require children to wear a US Coast Guard-approved life vest while on a boat, but the age limit varies from state to state. Check your state’s TVA Environmental Resource site for more information.

  • Always obey posted rules and warnings.
  • Never go into the water alone.
  • Always wear a personal flotation device.
  • Inspect waders for signs of wear, and use ties to prevent water from entering boots. Wet suits are an excellent substitute for waders, especially in the cold water below the tributary dams.
  • Fish, swim or wade below dams only during low-flow periods.
  • Stay out of restricted areas.
  • Plan a quick exit from the water to the nearest bank in case of an emergency.
  • Move to a safer area immediately if a siren sounds or strobe lights flash at dams equipped with these warning devices.
  • State agencies, which are responsible for boater safety, advise boaters to always leave the motor running, even when drift fishing. The water below a dam can roil up suddenly, trapping or capsizing boaters—a stalled or hard-to-start motor can lead to disaster.
  • For the same reason, never anchor your boat below a dam.

Be safe and have fun!