Langley – As thousands of people are gearing up for the long Labor Day weekend on the waters of Grand and Hudson lakes and the Illinois River, the Grand River Dam Authority Police Department is also reinforcing its water safety messages.

Boating and floating safe, smart and sober is the best way to create an enjoyable outing while taking advantage of the many recreational opportunities these waters offer. As always, GRDA officers will be out in full force over the weekend to assist visitors, encourage safety and enforce rules and regulations.

“We want the public to come out and have a great time on the lakes and the river over the weekend,” said GRDA Corporate Communications Director Justin Alberty, “but we want them to play safe when they do visit. That is why we always, always encourage life jacket use and practicing common sense on the water.”

GRDA has shared the following “Dos and DON’Ts” before, but as you head to the water this weekend, please keep these in mind:

  • DO wear a life jacket. They float, you don’t. However, they only work if you wear them.  Remember, if you are floating the river, children 13 years of age and under are required to wear a life jacket at all times. On the lake, children 12 years of age and younger are required to wear a life jacket on vessels under 26 feet long. However, we encourage everyone to wear a life jacket at all times.
  • DON’T DRINK AND BOAT. Alcohol use continues to be the single leading factor contributing to boating accidents. Don’t become a statistic.
  • DO know the water and environment you will be boating or floating on.
  • DO keep a good lookout while underway.
  • DO shut your engines off when people are in the water near your boat.
  • DO observe the nautical “rules of the road.”
  • DO check the weather forecast before getting underway.
  • DO keep a balanced load and trim boat.
  • DON’T overload your boat.
  • DON’T ride on the gunwale, bow, seat backs or any place that is not designated for sitting.
  • DON’T swim or boat alone. Stay within sight of companions.
  • Floating the river? DO let the commercial float operator know if you are anyone in your party are a first-time or novice floater(s). They may be able to pair you with an experienced paddler/floater or float you in a raft where there is a lesser chance for capsizing;
  • DON’T dive into the river from bridges, bluffs, stream banks and trees.
  • DO respect the weather and the water. If you are tired while floating, take a break on the bank or on a gravel bar to rest.
  • Want more information? DO check out additional boating laws at: www.grda.com/grda-boating-laws .
  • If you need immediate assistance on the waters, the GRDA Police recommends you call 911.

Also, please be aware of the signs, buoys, sirens, fencing and flashing lights you may see around Pensacola Dam, Robert S. Kerr Dam,  the Salina Pumped Storage Project and the Low Water Dam. These are all intended to notify you of areas where water may rise swiftly, no trespassing or no diving is allowed or footing is unstable.

Boaters at Grand Lake Oklahoma

Finally, GRDA reminds you that Labor Day Weekend is a great chance to take advantage of the free tours of historic Pensacola Dam before the tour season ends. Tours originate from the GRDA Ecosystems and Education Center, located just west of the dam, in Langley.

If you are planning on taking the tour, remember to wear comfortable shoes (there is a fair amount of walking involved) and dress for the weather. Also, all persons over 18 are required to present some form of ID. Please be prepared to show that before taking the free tour of an Oklahoma structure that has captured the interest of the public since 1940.

Whether you are coming to the lake, to the river, to the dam or maybe to all three, GRDA encourages you to keep these tips in mind as you enjoy the Labor Day weekend.