Riding the rapids: ODNR trains for swift water rescues


On the Muskingum River near Zanesville, a low head dam spews raging rapids. Ohio Department of Natural Resource officers said the fierce, churning current isn't the result of a dam release or a recent severe storm.

"This is all rainwater, snowmelt, everything from over the winter," said ODNR Officer Eric Reed.

Officers learned to navigate rescue boats in the current and said the rushing water is so loud, they can only communicate using hand signals and whistles.

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"The dynamics of water on that boat are forcing that boat to cavitate, all while they're trying to drive and pay attention. It's an assault on their senses," said Officer Reed.

The training will prepare officers for the next time a kayaker's enthusiasm exceeds their paddling skill.

"You know, they want to go out on the river and experience this really cool wave we have here, but sometime if you're not skilled in that, it can be very dangerous," said Officer Reed.

Officers learned a variety of rescue techniques and learned how to self-rescue if their own watercraft capsizes. Officers take this training seriously because they know their rescue skills could mean the difference between life and death.

"We're definitely here for a reason. We're here for any swift water rescues in the state of Ohio that we get called to," said Officer Reed.

He urged kayakers to follow some simple safety guidelines this spring, including always wearing a life vest and a wet suit or dry suit in case you fall in the water.

"It may be 75 degrees outside, but the temperature of the water in March and April is in the 40s," said Officer Reed. "Hypothermia is a real risk."

Officer Reed also urged boaters to know the locations of dangerous low head dams on Ohio's rivers. To view a map, click here.

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