Recent storms packing torrential downpours have fueled floods and strong fast currents, prompting the state Department of Natural Resources to remind the public to think safety when planning water trips by first checking local conditions and to always wear a life jacket on the water.

DNR Chief Conservation Warden Todd Schaller says Wisconsin is known for its rivers and lakes, making summer a prime time for water fun. However, he says, with it comes summer storms and ever-changing water conditions that need to be on all water enthusiasts’ radar.

“A top and quick water safety tip is to always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vest. The old bulky orange ones of years gone by today are replaced by comfortable versions,” Chief Schaller said. “Wearing one just might save your life.”

Schaller also advises to take the time to check local water conditions before swimming, boating or paddling. Good places to check are DNR offices, local bait shops, sporting goods stores or U.S. Geological Survey, too.

“These recent storms also have been packing big winds that have pushed trees and other debris in the water,” Schaller said. “The floating debris is another danger to keep watch for.”

Here are some other safety tips from Chief Warden Schaller:

  • Make a float plan, follow that plan – and let someone know where you are going.
  • Always wear a life jacket. All on board, including in a canoe or a kayak, are required by law to have a wearable U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket on board.
  • Match your skill level to water and weather conditions.
  • Take a boating safety class and hone your skills.
  • Everyone born on or after January 1, 1989 must have completed a boating safety course to operate a motorboat (unless ages 10-15 and accompanied by a parent or guardian).  You can take an online boat safety course, found online at dnr. or here:
  • Do not overload your vessel.
  • Place belongings and dry clothing in a wet sack or other waterproof container.
  • Do not drink alcohol or use drugs before or during your water outing.