County urges caution on rivers that are high, swift, cold from mountain snowmelt

Warmer weather is expected for the first weekend in May, and King County officials are urging recreational river and lake users to be extremely careful when heading out on the water.

While sunny skies and summerlike temperatures might make a dip in a local lake, river or even Puget Sound seem like an inviting idea, all of those waterbodies are extremely cold this time of year, and recreationists are reminded to use caution around open water.

Kayakers, boaters, rafters and other river users should check conditions and scout rivers thoroughly for hazards before entering the water.

Flows on rivers fed by mountain snowpack could increase throughout the week as snowmelt accelerates. River temperatures can still be in the 40-degree range – and lakes aren’t that much warmer.

“The combination of warm weather and very cold water is a recipe for potential danger, and it is important that everyone thinking about going out on the water be aware of these early season conditions,” said Christie True, Director of the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

“Every year, we see tragic and preventable drownings on our local rivers,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “Please use a personal flotation device if you go on the river. For safer places to swim, take advantage of local pools or lifeguarded beaches.”

For more information on river safety and drowning prevention, visit the King County river safety web page at


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