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River Safety on the Upper Delaware River

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July 06, 2021
River Safety on the Upper Delaware River
Summer is a wonderful time to come and enjoy the Upper Delaware River whether it is fishing, boating, swimming, or floating.  But being on or near the river has its risks and everyone should follow safe river practices.  One of the most important pieces of safety equipment is the life jacket which will keep you afloat if you find yourself in the river intentionally or unintentionally but not everyone wears a life jacket, or they are not worn properly.

Unfortunately, since Memorial Day weekend four people have drowned while boating, swimming, or wading in the Upper Delaware River.  Three were not wearing a life jacket and the fourth wasn’t wearing a properly fitted life jacket. This brings the total number of drownings since 1980 up to 73.

It is important to remember that boating and alcohol don’t mix.  Alcohol can impair decision making and response time in an emergency situation. Think twice about boating under the influence.

Many people enjoy swimming or wading in the river but are unaware of the dangers. Sudden drop-offs, deep holes, and swift currents are typical of the Upper Delaware River. Most drowning in the Upper Delaware River occurred while swimming. Wear a Life Jacket.  Never swim alone and do not try to fight the current. If you step into deep water, float with the current until you are able to swim toward the shore. A life jacket, throw line, and first aid kits are recommended. The Delaware River is unpredictable and rocks in the river and along the bank are slippery. Walk carefully and wear protective footwear.

Always wear a properly fitted Life Jacket.  All vessels on the Upper Delaware are required to have a readily accessible, wearable type, Coast Guard approved life jacket for each person on board. Inner tubes are considered vessels on the Upper Delaware and require life jackets. Children 12 and under are required to wear their life jackets when boating on the river. When wearing a life jacket, it is important to make sure it is properly fitted and secured.

Never tie a Life Jacket into a vessel.  A Life Jacket tied to a boat cannot save your life. If your boat capsizes, be ready to help yourself. Keep upstream of the craft; float on your back with your feet forward and close to the surface to fend off any rocks. Never stand up in fast-moving water; your feet or legs could become trapped, allowing the current to push you under. Release your boat only if it improves your safety. A canoe, even filled with water, is a good floatation device, but be sure to stay upstream of your vessel. The force of the water can easily pin a person between their vessel and a river obstacle.

Before you go out into the river, find out what to expect by calling the River Information Hotline: (845) 252-7100. This recording is updated daily with reports of air and water temperatures, and river heights.

The National Park Service reminds river users to follow these safety tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit to one of America’s most scenic and recreational rivers.

Photo Caption:  Boaters enjoying a rafting trip while wearing their life jackets.
About the National Park Service: More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 423 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at

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