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CPW promoting safe boating tips in honor of National Safe Boating Week May 18-24

Colorado Parks and Wildlife
In honor of National Safe Boating Week (May 18-24, 2024), Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is promoting safe boating tips to educate outdoor enthusiasts on how to stay safe on Colorado waters while enjoying water sports like power boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, fishing and more.

CPW is also encouraging people to take part in #wearyourlifejacketatworkday on Friday, May 17.

Water-based recreation remains a popular pastime in Colorado. With increased visitation at many bodies of water, it is increasingly important to use safe boating and water recreation practices. There have already been four water-related fatalities in Colorado this year and the outdoor season is just beginning. In 2023, CPW tracked 32 water-related fatalities, down from 42 in 2022, a state record. CPW tracked 22 deaths in 2021 and 34 deaths in 2020.

In 2023, the majority of fatalities occurred from people rafting and kayaking on the Colorado and Arkansas rivers following a strong winter and wet spring that overloaded the mountain snowpack, increasing snow runoff flowing into rivers, streams and lakes.

CPW also reminds the public that paddle boards and kayaks are considered vessels, and life jacket requirements apply. Colorado law requires that all vessels have a life jacket of an appropriate size readily accessible for every person on board. Children aged 12 and under must also wear a life jacket at all times when on the water.

"We recommend that all boaters and passengers wear a life jacket while on the water," said Grant Brown, CPW's Boating Safety Program Manager. "Regardless of your age or experience level, the data shows that life jackets save lives."

Find the right life jacket for your needs.

"Wearing a life jacket is especially important when boating in cold water when water temperatures are below 70 degrees," Brown said. "Cold water immersion shock coupled with the lack of a life jacket have been contributing factors in the majority of drownings in Colorado in previous seasons. We want people to have fun on the water and not be afraid of it, so we encourage you to bring the proper safety gear for a positive outdoor experience."

New boating age law
A new law goes into effect on June 1, 2024, changing the age requirements to operate a motorboat in Colorado. The new law prohibits the operation of a motorboat, including a personal watercraft (PWC/jet ski), by a person who is less than 18 years of age. A person who is at least 14 years of age but less than 18 years of age may operate a motorboat if the person has completed a boating safety course approved by CPW and possesses a boating safety certificate issued by the boating safety course provider.

This boating age law does not apply to non-motorized vessels such as kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards, but life jacket requirements still apply.

Boating safety tips
Before heading out on the water, Colorado Parks and Wildlife advises the following boating safety tips:
 • Wear your life jacket. Data shows in over 80% of drownings the person was not wearing a life jacket.
 • Sign up for a boating safety course. A course can be valuable to novice and experienced boaters.
 • Carry all required safety gear for your vessel type.
 • Be aware of weather and water conditions. Conditions can change quickly so remain vigilant.
 • Boat sober- Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boating deaths.
 • While not required, an anchor and paddle/oar can help in an emergency.
 • Get a safety inspection of your vessel.
 • Review navigation techniques.

It is important that boaters take into account the risks that weather can present while recreating on the water. Dangerous weather conditions that raise concerns are unpredictable strong wind gusts that can knock a paddle boarder or kayaker into the water, and cold water temperatures that exist year-round in Colorado.

Photo: Wayne D. Lewis/CPW
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