How to stay safe on the water during Memorial Day weekend

May 24, 2024, 5:00 PM

A lake seen in Utah with beachgoers ahead of the time to learn about Memorial Day safety....

It's that time of year again to go over Memorial Day safety and boat knowledge. (DWR)


SALT LAKE CITY — Whether you’re swimming, boating or paddleboarding, one of the most popular weekends to get away and out onto the water in Utah is Memorial Day weekend.

The United States Coastguard said in a press release that Memorial Day weekend is considered an unofficial start to boating season. Along with that season comes boat and water safety. 

Related: Times and places to avoid in Utah ahead of Memorial Day weekend traffic

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s Vital Signs report, 55% of American adults have never taken a swimming lesson. 

The CDC report also showed that drowning deaths are on the rise.

So, how can people stay safe this holiday weekend?

Wear a lifejacket

Chief of Law Enforcement for the Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation, Steve Bullock, spoke with Dave and Dujanovic about paddleboards and lifejacket safety.

According to Bullock, Utah law requires that a lifejacket be available for each person on a boat. 

“If you’re on a river then you’re required to wear [a lifejacket],” Bullock said. “The other two situations where you need to wear a life jacket is being towed and towed water sports. So, wake surfing, water skiing or if you’re on a personal watercraft.”


The Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office talked about why it’s important for everyone to wear a lifejacket on its Facebook page.

Related: Utah oncologist talks cancer prevention ahead of Memorial Day

The sheriff’s office mentioned how the water’s cold temperatures can make it harder to swim, runoff effects can cause currents and hazards that are hard to swim through and how wearing a lifejacket is a general safety precaution.

“The biggest mistake you can make is thinking you don’t need [a lifejacket],” the sheriff’s office said in its Facebook post. “Stay safe, wear your life vest and enjoy a wonderful and safe summer on the water!”

Boat knowledge

When it comes to boats, the first thing a person might think of is wearing a life jacket. If you are a boater, there might be a little more to think about.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will be on the lookout for boaters who may not be following aquatic invasive species laws, according to a press release.

“We want to let the public know in advance that these patrols are happening, so they can make sure they are educated about the current aquatic invasive species laws and are in compliance with those laws,” DWR Aquatic Invasive Species Operations Lt. Bruce Johnson said in the release.

“Our goal is to educate the public and to prevent wildlife violations from occurring in the first place. If quagga mussels spread from Lake Powell to other Utah waterbodies, it would significantly impact water delivery systems in that area and also impact the fisheries at the affected waterbodies,” Johnson said.

Conservation officers will be patrolling various bodies of water throughout Utah on Saturday and Sunday, according to DWR.

The reason for these laws and boat checks? Quagga and zebra mussels.

Quagga mussels attached to various items.

Quagga mussels attached to various items. (The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

What are quagga and zebra mussels?

According to the DWR, Lake Powell is currently the only body of water with quagga mussels. Boats are required to be inspected when exiting the lake. The boat must be professionally decontaminated before going into any other bodies of water.

The DWR said if a boat cannot be professionally decontaminated, the boat must go through a series of guidelines before going into another body of water.

Both residents and non-residents are required to take a course on mussel awareness. The DWR said this includes people with “paddle boards, kayaks and other non-motorized watercraft.”

People who take a motorized boat out onto the water in Utah are also required to pay a fee related to aquatic invasive species and watercraft.

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How to stay safe on the water during Memorial Day weekend