Our primary goal is to proliferate important and useful knowledge about Colorado’s various water recreational opportunities. However, residents and visitors cannot truly have fun if safety hazards are present. The best way to protect yourself from the dangers of water fun is to understand the risks. Below, we have listed five of the most essential tips for staying safe in Colorado’s rivers, lakes, and waterparks.
Swim with a friend. Never go swimming alone. Whether you’re visiting a secluded lake or a busy waterpark, always swim with a partner. This person can help you in the case of an emergency—a fall at a park or loss of energy on a long swim.
Learn some safety practices. If you have the time and capability, learn a couple of life-saving skills, such as CPR and rescue techniques. Several organizations offer free classes for both beginner and experienced swimmers. Check with your local YMCA or Red Cross chapter.
Swim in safe areas. If part of the beach is blocked off, don’t swim there. If a pool at a waterpark is closed, don’t try to jump in. Additionally, it’s a good idea to swim only in places supervised by a lifeguard. Strong currents, sudden storms, and other environmental factors can leave even the most experienced swimmer looking for help.
Know your limits. Drownings will often occur as a result of swimmers overestimating their ability—whether that means staying out longer than intended, not recognizing they are tired, or going in too deep. Understand your personal limitations and act accordingly.
Be careful about diving. Diving injuries can cause head injury, permanent spinal cord damage, paralysis, and even death. Only dive in areas that are known to be safe. If areas have “No Diving” signs posted, it likely means the area is dangerous.
Denver is an incredible place to experience summertime. From its lakes and rivers to the mountains and waterparks, there is never a dull moment in this bustling, busy city. However, the carefree nature of the summer season often provides a space for residents and visitors to forget about safety best practices. You may be ready to pull on your swimsuit or head out for a hike, but summer weather can pose a threat to safety and wellbeing. Before heading out, read these five principle safety tips to ensure you have the best, safest, and most relaxing summer possible.
Sun and Heat Protection
This is the most obvious threat to summer recreation. Always apply sunscreen at least thirty minutes before heading outside (even on cloudy days) and reapply it every two hours. Even waterproof and sweatproof sunscreen will lose its effectiveness after eighty minutes of swimming. To protect yourself from the heat, avoid direct sunlight between 10AM and 3PM, and stay in shaded areas as much as possible. Drink water, dress in baggy and light clothes, and take frequent breaks from physical activity. If you do get a sunburn, get out of the sun as soon as possible and apply aloe vera. If you suspect heat stroke, call 911 immediately.
Protect Against Burns
Summertime means fire—bonfires, fireworks, grilling, you name it. If you are in the presence of these hazardous items, clearly communicate to those around you. First-degree burns are painful but won’t blister, while second-degree burns are deeper and typically blister. Third-degree burns can appear white, waxy, or black. Call a doctor if you suspect you have a second- or third-degree burn.
Use Caution When in Water
The summer months bring an excess of Coloradans to the state’s bodies of water. While most residents will know how to remain safe in and around water, some might be a bit fuzzy on the details. Listen to lifeguards, never run by a pool, and do not dive into shallow water. If you enjoy more adventurous water sports—cliff diving, for example—ensure you have the knowledge and experience to do it safely. If you don’t, ensure someone in your group knows what they’re doing and is comfortable instructing you.
Allow us to state something super obvious. You can’t have water fun without water. It’s not just the water parks and public pools. It’s also the lawns, golf courses, gardens, and crops. Green space and food are also vital components to the Denver community—and any community. It’s not exactly breaking news that Denver and much of the Rocky Mountains and southwest U.S. is facing a water shortage. What’s unknown is how soon and how dramatic this water shortage may manifest itself in markedly higher prices and mandatory rationing.
And the total water cost isn’t just about the water. It’s also the delivery, quality assurance, and related infrastructure. It was just last year that the city raised its water rates to help fund repairs and system upgrades to aging pipes, storage tanks, treatment facilities, and warehouses. This is above and beyond the day-to-day service work that is needed to maintain the system.
Again, there’s a high degree of uncertainty in terms of how soon and how severe water shortages may occur. Even with the preponderance of information about climate change and its potential long-term effects, it’s impossible to predict how much precipitation and evaporation will occur this year and next year. More than a decade ago, it was forecasted that the state would need to store and conserve 400,000 acre-feet of water by 2040. This would allow the city to provide water to additional 2 million people. The thing is with Denver’s enormous population grown, the city is now expected to add more than 2 million people over the next couple decades—leading to serious doubts about whether the state will ever be able to “future-proof its water supply.”
Meeting Immediate and Long-Term Challenges
The state has created the Colorado Water Plan, which has been largely praised by water use officials and conservationists, even as it’s acknowledged that the Plan is just a plan. It has not enforcement mechanisms. The Plan has also identified $3 billion in unfunded needs to enact the plan by 2050. As comprehensive as the plan is, it still leaves a gap in the current projections of supply and demand. Public education is another part of the plan, modeled after California and that state’s ability to reduce its water consumption by 25% during times of severe drought.
Some experts have also pointed out the lack of spending and infrastructure priorities in terms of what projects should come first. Others have pointed out that there’s no guarantee the political will in state government can stay this course over several electoral cycles. What everybody seems to agree on is that Colorado cannot continue to maintain a patchwork system that can barely respond to short-term droughts. It seems all but certain that residents and businesses will end up paying more for their water in the future. What isn’t certain is whether there will also be sufficient water to go around for water parks, swimming pools, golf courses, and other water-based recreational activities.
Colorado is renowned for its outdoor opportunities. Though the state is best known for nature-related recreation, adventurers can enjoy a day in the water elsewhere—namely, water parks and public pools. To help your search, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite Denver-area water activities.
- Water World; 1800 W. 89th Ave. Federal Heights, CO 80260
This is one of the largest family water parks in the country. Easily accessible by Denver residents, this is the perfect place for a family outing. All rides are marked with a “thrill rating,” making it easy to tailor your experience to personal (and the kids’) preferences. Larger groups can reserve a pavilion or picnic tables in advance to guarantee a place to take a break from the park’s 50 aquatic attractions.
- Pirates Cove; 1225 W. Bellview Ave. Englewood, CO 80120
This small waterpark certainly packs a punch. It features a 35-foot tower with three slides, a lazy river, a six-lane pool, and a 25-meter pool—in addition to several concessions and family friendly activities. This is a great place to take small children; it is less expensive than other parks in the area, the rides are more accessible, and fewer attractions mean a smaller chance for overstimulation.
- Deer Creek Pool; 8637 S. Garrison St. Littleton, CO 80128
Another attraction perfect for younger kids, this small, inexpensive park is very laid-back. The area offers a pol, a slide, and several lap lanes. You can also find plenty of space for leisure swimming and wading, as well as a comprehensive concession stand. Also, those who live in the district are eligible for significant discounts on day passes.
- Elitch Gardens—Island Kingdom; 2000 Elitch Cir. Denver, CO 80204
Part of the larger Elitch Gardens theme park, Island Kingdom access is free with general park admission. Families will find both leisure and thrill rides—everything from a lazy river to heart-pounding water slides. The park’s Splashdown features a 75-foot-long twisting raft ride, and Hook’s Lagoon is a great place to bring the toddlers.