Lake, River, Beach Water Safety

The resources found on this page equip you with the knowledge and tips to enjoy your aquatic adventures while prioritizing safety. Whether you're planning a lakeside retreat, a river excursion, or a sun-soaked day at the beach, understanding the potential risks and adopting safety practices is crucial for a worry-free and enjoyable experience. 

Blue-Green Algae

Remember that blue-green algae can sometimes produce harmful toxins when around lakes and rivers. Stay informed about water conditions, obey advisories, and avoid discolored water or scum. If swimming, be cautious about water ingestion and shower afterward. Let's enjoy these natural wonders while staying safe and protecting the environment.


Wear a Properly Fitting Life Vest

Even experienced water enthusiasts can make mistakes with changing water conditions in open water. Always be prepared by wearing your life jacket; you can never predict when you may end up in the water unexpectedly. 

Children should always wear a life jacket that fits and watch them closely when near water as they can quickly and quietly go under the water!

Various water safety laws have been enacted to enhance life jacket usage and prevent drowning:
  • Kids aged 12 and under are required to wear a well-fitting life jacket on moving boats less than 19 feet in length in Washington state.
  • Recreational boats must have one U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket per person on board. They must be easily accessible. This regulation applies nationwide under the Coast Guard's jurisdiction.

Affordable Life Jackets

There is one golden rule that should never be overlooked: always wear a life jacket! 

Regardless of your swimming skills or the tranquil appearance of the water, unexpected currents, sudden changes in weather, or hidden hazards can pose real dangers. A life jacket is your ultimate safeguard, providing buoyancy and peace of mind, allowing you to stay afloat effortlessly. 
This simple yet crucial piece of equipment can be a lifesaver, ensuring that you and your loved ones can relish your aquatic adventures with confidence and security. So, before you set foot near the water's edge, remember to don your life jacket and let the fun-filled exploration begin safely!


The State Parks Boating Program operates the statewide life jacket loaner program in partnership with the Washington Drowning Prevention Network. Use their interactive map by clicking the map below to find one of the 180 locations with loaner life jackets. 
Life Jacket Loaner Map Opens in new window

Boater Safety

Boater safety is a critical concern for all enthusiasts navigating waterways. Prioritizing safe boating practices helps ensure enjoyable experiences and prevents accidents. Essential aspects include maintaining operator attentiveness, practicing proper lookout techniques, and gaining sufficient boating experience to reduce human error-related incidents. Regular maintenance and inspection of watercraft are crucial to prevent potential issues stemming from machinery failure. 

Combating alcohol use while boating through stringent regulations and public awareness campaigns remains crucial to curbing its impact on accidents. Emphasizing the importance of life jackets is a universal safety measure to prevent drownings, as seen by statistics showing a significant percentage of victims not wearing them during fatal boating incidents. By adopting these safety measures nationwide, boaters can cherish their water adventures while protecting themselves and others.

Boat Education Requirements in WA State

A significant amount of boating incidents resulting in drowning deaths or near drownings involve boaters who lack boater safety education. To address this concern, Washington state has implemented RCW 79A.60.640, which mandates that operators of motorboats with 15 horsepower or greater must complete a boater education class and obtain a boater education card. This education can be acquired through various methods, such as attending a classroom session, completing an online course, or studying at home.
Boater Card

However, there are exemptions to this requirement. Individuals born before 1955 are not obliged to obtain the boater education card in Washington, but they would still need it if they operate a motorboat in Canada or Oregon.

The specific date by which boaters need to obtain their boater education card is dependent on their age. For more detailed information on this topic, you can visit the Washington State Parks Mandatory Boat Education website.