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The Larimer County Department of Natural Resources in partnership with the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office, Larimer County Office of Emergency Management, Poudre Fire Authority, and the City of Loveland encourage caution as boaters, paddlers, and anglers approach the water for recreation this spring.  Colorado recorded nearly 40 fatal drownings in 2022, which was officially the deadliest year across the state’s lakes, rivers, and streams, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Snowmelt and flow of area rivers and streams increase during the spring runoff. The Bureau of Reclamation also anticipates allowing more water through Lake Estes this spring. This may lead to higher-than-average streamflow in the Big Thompson Canyon, in addition to swift currents and cold, deep water that normally occur during the snowmelt season.

Justin Whitesell, Emergency Operations Director at the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office, advises recreators to plan ahead before going out. “Our county has a lot to offer in terms of outdoor recreation,” he said. “We want our community members and visitors to get home safely with positive memories to share, and a little bit of preparation goes a long way.”

Larimer County officials offer safety guidelines for recreating on flat or moving water:

  • Take a boating safety class. Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers a state-approved course to safely operate a motorized vessel in Colorado. Register here
  • Wear it! Personal flotation devices (PFDs) save lives. Children 12 and under are required by law to wear a PFD at all times.
  • Bring a whistle. State and federal regulations require vessels to have a sound-producing device onboard at all times.
  • Have a float plan. Tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return.  
  • Check the forecast and keep an eye on the weather.
  • Bring a cell phone. If you have an emergency but cannot call for help, try texting. Text-to-911 is available in Larimer County.
  • Be ready for sudden high winds and springtime weather changes.
  • Bring extra layers of clothing and rain gear. Spring water is deceptively cold, increasing the risk of hypothermia.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Wear sunscreen and stay hydrated.
  • Avoid alcohol or marijuana. Public consumption is against the law, and impairment can create serious safety risks while recreating on the water.
  • Know and understand all the laws of any body of water where you plan to fish, boat, or paddle.  
  • Be respectful of other vessels on the water.
  • Label your watercraft with your name and phone number. Lost tubes, kayaks, and paddles can cause concern if found without context.
    Including contact information can help first responders reach the owner and confirm your safety.

“We want everyone to have a great time while recreating in Larimer County, but we also want you to visit us again. Please wear your PFD and have the necessary equipment and preparation before you head out to the reservoir or river,” said Chris Fleming, Visitor Services Manager, Larimer County Natural Resources.

For more tips and information about recreating responsibly on land and water, please visit

This water safety message is supported by several Larimer County public agencies working together to increase outdoor recreation safety for community members and visitors.


Photo credit:  Water training exercise, Larimer County Sheriff's Office Emergency Services

Water safety training exercise Larimer County Sheriff Office Emergency Services
Published on: 
Tuesday, May 16, 2023 - 9:05am
Contact Details:

Larimer County Natural Resources
(970) 619-4561

Larimer County Sheriff’s Office

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Fort Collins, CO 80521
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