Riverbanks are scary unstable now, so stay back, warns safety expert

May 5, 2023, 5:30 PM | Updated: Oct 17, 2023, 9:31 am

A sign is seen near the Weber River....

FILE: The Weber River swells from a melting snowpack in Fort Buenaventura Park in Ogden on Monday, April 17, 2023. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Libby Stimpson, 28, was walking her dogs Monday along the banks of the Weber River when she was swept into the torrent.  Crews set up checkpoints along the Weber but by Tuesday afternoon, they had pivoted to a recovery effort. A water-safety expert talks about the danger of eroding riverbanks from high-flowing rivers and creeks.

Family identifies woman swept into Weber River

Jason Curry, director of the Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation, talks to Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic about water safety and keeping a safe distance from rivers as ice-cold spring runoff roars down from the mountains.

“It’s not only the river — how fast the river is moving — it’s also the banks,” Debbie said. “They can be really unstable as well if you get close to the edge.”

“Not only is the water volume way higher, but it’s super-cold water. And so along with that, especially with the high flows, banks can become unstable,” Curry said. “We can’t emphasize enough how dangerous it is to be near the water . . . especially young children and pets.”

Never jump into a raging river to save someone

“Speaking of young children, I think Debbie and I over the years have covered so many of these stories,” Dave said. “One in particular stands out to me: I remember a young child went in and the mother follow that child immediately. I mean it was one after the other because they just couldn’t help themselves and then they both drowned. What do you do as a parent? I know it’s counterintuitive, but what’s the advice?”

“If a child or even a dog goes in, your first reaction is going to be to jump right in there,” Cury said. “That’s, you know, that’s a parental instinct. Even the best parents can turn their back for a moment and then the child wanders in. Do not go in after them.

“Just take that pause and think ‘OK, what’s the best thing to do here?” and oftentimes, the best thing to do is to first of all, call 911 and then make sure you have a good description, keep your eye on that person and then follow downstream along the bank, keeping a safe distance as much as you can and then look for an opportunity downstream to effect a rescue,” he said.

Be careful fishing along riverbanks

“Matt Johnson, our meteorologist, was just in studio with us, and he even said if you’re fishing along the banks, don’t right now because the banks themselves are so unstable from the high flows and as much water as we’re getting, and they can actually just dissolve underneath your feet,” Debbie said.

“Erosion right now is happening in different places we’ve never seen it before. That bank that you’re standing on can be undercut. We’re seeing it all over the state. I’ve seen it even along the Jordan River, and even the mountain streams. Keep your distance and watch for that,” Curry said.

The National Park Service: River and Stream Safety


Flood warning in place for South Fork of Ogden River


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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Riverbanks are scary unstable now, so stay back, warns safety expert