OLYMPIA – With temperatures rising and a holiday weekend fast approaching, some people may see one of the 500 public boat launches maintained by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) as a good place to take a dip.
Far from it, say state wildlife managers, who caution swimmers against using the launch sites for that purpose.
“Swimmers and boat traffic don’t mix,” said Steve Pozzanghera, WDFW assistant wildlife director. “These sites are designed to give anglers, hunters and recreational boaters a place to launch their boats, not accommodate swimmers. We really don’t want to see someone get hurt.”
Though a minority of WDFW’s water-access sites are specifically posted “No Swimming,” common sense argues against swimming in an area where dozens of motorboats are coming and going each day, Pozzanghera said.
Pozzanghera also cited several other possible hazards, including the lack of lifeguards and rocky, uneven lake and river bottoms around many of the department’s access sites.
In addition, stream flows in some rivers around the state are currently more than twice last year’s levels, due to snow melt, he said. Cold, fast-moving water presents an extra hazard for swimmers this year.
“Again, we maintain these areas for bank fishing and launching boats, not swimming,” he said. “We strongly recommend that swimmers find a beach, perhaps at a state or municipal park, that is designed for them.”