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DNR encourages safety for those planning to enjoy Iowa’s natural resources this holiday weekend

  • 5/21/2020 11:02:00 AM
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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Memorial Day holiday weekend is fast approaching and is expected to be a busy one, despite Covid-19.

Iowa has a wide variety of outdoor activities to spend your weekend, whether it be camping, visiting state parks, swimming at the beaches, or paddling and boating. The Iowa DNR reminds everyone to obey all laws and rules—that includes physical distancing guidelines—while enjoying Iowa’s outdoor recreational activities.

“Everyone is antsy to get outside and enjoy the beautiful Iowa natural resources after being cooped up all winter and more recently because of the Covid-19 pandemic,” DNR Director Kayla Lyon said. “This weekend will provide a great time for families to get out and explore what our great state has to offer, but we caution everyone to do so safely and responsibly.”

This week, May 16-22, marks Safe Boating Week in Iowa. With over 5,000 lakes and 54,000 miles of rivers and streams, Iowa offers an abundant boating resource for hundreds of thousands of people each year. Whether you are canoeing a stream, fishing on a state lake, kayaking or boating on the waters of Iowa, the simple steps of wearing a life jacket, taking a safe boating course and not operating your boat when impaired greatly improve your chances for a safe and enjoyable day on the water.

Fast Facts:

  • Iowa has approximately 195,450 registered boats.
  • In 2019, DNR Conservation Officers made 67 Boating While Intoxicated arrests
  • In 2019, there were 7 boating-related fatalities and 13 incidents involving injuries.

Following these important boater safety tips will help ensure a safe and enjoyable weekend on the water:

  • Wear your life jacket - it floats, you don’t.
  • Alcohol and boating don’t mix. Wind, sun glare and heat can enhance the effects of alcohol hindering the operator’s ability to make decisions.
  • Check for open ramps or water hazards before heading out.
  • Be patient; boat ramps will be busy.
  • Before leaving the house, check the trailer lights, wheel bearings and the hitch.
  • Make sure there is a current fire extinguisher and horn/whistle, a wearable life jacket for everyone and a USCG approved flotation device onboard.
  • Anyone 12 and under on a vessel underway must wear a life jacket.
  • File a float plan with a friend, including your destination, expected time of return and type of boat.   
  • Inflatable life jackets are light weight, comfortable and USCG approved. Wear it.
  • Take a boater education course available online at It has valuable information and many insurance companies will offer a discount on boat insurance. Familiarize yourself with Iowa’s boating laws.
  • Slow down, watch for other boaters or personal watercraft, have patience and most importantly, have a designated operator who will stay clear of any alcohol
  • Drain plugs and other water draining devices must be removed and/or remain open during transport to avoid spreading invasive species. Anglers leaving with fish are recommended to put them on ice, whether in a cooler, a bucket or a live well (plug must still be removed and/or opened).
  • Top two safety violations in Iowa are having inadequate life jackets and operating too fast and too close to other vessels.

Even outdoor recreation looks a little different in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Boaters should practice the following physical distancing guidelines:

  • Limit the people aboard your boat to people in your immediate household. Gather in groups of 10 or fewer.  
  • Stay at least six feet away from other people.
  • Maintain safe distance at the fuel dock, boat ramp or loading up at the marina.
  • Wash hands frequently or use a hand sanitizer regularly.
  • Don’t raft up to other boaters or pull up onto a beach too close to someone else.
  • Avoid any unnecessary stops between your home and the lake to avoid contact with others outside of your immediate family.
  • Pack food, water and other items from home that you may need, as restaurants and marina stores may not be open.
  • Stay home if you or someone in your household is sick.

The Iowa DNR wishes everyone a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend. Together, we can follow the rules to ensure the safest possible weekend and help stop the spread of Covid-19.