Rathbun Lake boater

In this file photo, a boater enjoys some open water on Rathbun Lake in 2015.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is expecting thousands to descend on state parks and waterways during the Labor Day weekend, or the unofficial end of summer.

The DNR is reminding those headed to the parks or waterways to practice boat and paddling safety, as well beach and swimming safety and safety in the parks and on campgrounds.

When it comes to boating safety, boaters are urged to plan ahead and avoid peak hours and crowding. Children under 12 in boats are required to wear a life jacket, and every vessel must have a life jacket for all on board. Vessels should have a charged fire extinguisher and horn or whistle on board, and boaters should avoid dams and other hazards, and obey all posted warning signs. The same alcohol limit of 0.08 for being under the influence applies to boating as it does to vehicles.

On beaches, young children are to be within arm’s reach at all times, and alcohol use is to be avoided while swimming. Swimmers are also reminded to stay within roped areas and obey posted signs and flags. Iowa’s public beaches do not have lifeguards on duty.

Beach-goers are encouraged to use the beaches on non-peak times and days, which are usually Sunday through Thursday before 5 p.m. On Saturday, non-peak hours are usually before noon.

Within parks and campgrounds, it is encouraged that visitors not hike alone, and to include hand sanitizer among products to pack. Also, those planning to use campgrounds should plan ahead, as staff may temporarily close parking lots and limit the number of visitors should lots become full. If there are plans to fish, a license can be purchased at www.gooutdoorsiowa.com.

When it comes to paddling — including tubing, kayaking and canoeing — some areas aren’t suitable if there are low water levels due to drought conditions. A lifejacket is highly encouraged, and required for children under 12. Tubers are reminded not to go in groups larger than 10, and to not tie tubes to each other.

A interactive map of places to canoe, kayak or paddle is loaded on the DNR’s website.

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