Across the state of Minnesota, lake ice is either gone or it's on the way out so the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wants to remind anyone around lakes, rivers, and ponds that cold water is dangerous and unexpected falls can quickly turn tragic.

As the ice dissipates, people get excited to get on the water, but safety must be a top priority. According to the DNR, about 30% of fatal boating accidents each year happen during the cold-water period, and many involve victims who weren’t wearing a life jacket.

Therefore, the simple act of wearing a life jacket that is properly buckled or zipped is the most effective way to survive a fall into cold water.

“So many of us wait impatiently all winter to get back on the water,” said Lt. Adam Block, boating law administrator for the DNR Enforcement Division. “It can be easy to let your guard down because you’re so excited, but the reality is failing to double down on safety this time of year can have disastrous consequences.”

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All boaters and paddlers are on early-season open water should make a point to:

  • Wear a foam-filled life jacket (inflatable life jackets might not fully inflate when the water is cold). Anyone on the ice should wear a foam life jacket or float coat and carry ice picks.
  • Ensure their watercraft is registered and equipped with proper safety equipment, and that all equipment is functioning properly.
  • Distribute weight evenly and abide by manufacturers’ weight limits to reduce the likelihood of falling overboard.
  • Have a means of communication and ensure someone knows where they’re going and when they plan to return.
  • Watch the weather to avoid shifting winds or storms.

The Minnesota DNR's Cold Water Safety page provides a wealth of helpful information, including the Cold Water Kills brochure, for those who enjoy spending time on early-season open water.

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