4 Water Safety Tips to Keep in Mind While Heading Out

We love spending time in the water, and if you’re reading this, you probably do, too. From swimming and kayaking to snorkeling and paddle boarding, there are infinite ways to have fun in the water. But when you spend a lot of time in lakes, rivers, oceans, and streams, safety best practices tend to go out the window. You think to yourself; I’ve done this plenty of times before. There’s no chance something bad could happen. Unfortunately, things tend to go wrong precisely when we begin to adopt this mindset.

Practicing safety is as important as having fun and getting out into the water. We’re approaching lake and river season in Colorado, so we thought it best to post a few important water safety reminders.

  • Contacts – Be sure to tell people where you’re going. Even if you’re heading there with a group of friends, you can never be too safe. Tell a roommate, friend, or family member where you’re going, what you’re doing, and how long you’ll be out.

  • Phone – Carry your phone in a plastic bag or other airtight container. This will prevent it from suffering water damage if you drop it in the lake or river. If you spend a lot of time in the water, consider buying a waterproof phone case.

  • Sun – Sun safety is always important, but it becomes essential on the water. Be sure to bring sunscreen and wear clothing that covers your body as much as possible. This might seem silly if you’re just heading to the beach, but sun poisoning can be very dangerous.

  • Emergency Materials – Be sure to keep your emergency contact accessible. This means you should have it written down somewhere other than your phone. You should also always bring allergy medication, like Benadryl or an EpiPen. You never know when you’ll have an allergic reaction to an insect or poisonous plant, but you’ll want to be prepared just in case.

Luckily, almost all of these tasks can be accomplished by prepping your pack the night before a trip. Maintaining a bag stocked with your emergency gear, sun protection, and a protective phone case or bag can save time and keep you prepared.

What to Do When Things Go Wrong

In some cases, accidents and emergencies are unavoidable. If you’ve done your due diligence and have your phone accessible, you’ll have an important decision to make: Should you go to the emergency room, or is a Denver urgent care clinic better equipped to handle your injury? In general, life-threatening injuries will require a visit to the E.R. This includes experiences like stroke, head trauma, severe bleeding, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. If your injury or accident is less severe, an urgent care center should be able to treat you – often for a lower price and in less time. These injuries can include cuts, bites, back pain, minor allergic reactions, rashes, mild asthma, and sprains and strains. Before heading out, be sure you know the difference about when to go to urgent care and when a hospital setting is more appropriate.  

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Spend a Weekend on the South Platte River

Take a paddling trip to South Platte River, a quick 30 minute drive from downtown Denver. This section of the river is located near the Chatfield Reservoir. The South Platte River allows kayaks, canoes, and inflatable crafts. Rejoice in free and plentiful parking! Plan for crowds on summer weekends, as the proximity to Denver attracts paddlers from near and far. 

The South Platte River attracts paddlers of all kinds. Known for its calm demeanor, this particular section of the River is forgiving enough for beginning paddlers of all kinds to practice their skills. Outfitters use this area to teach stand-up paddle boarding, fly fishing, and kayaking. It is so flat at times that even experienced paddlers will come simply to test out new gear. 

Kayak and paddling rentals can be found at Confluence Kayaks. Rentals are available daily, overnight, weekend, and weekly, in order to accommodate paddling trips of all lengths. Book a trip for the day, make a weekend of it, or stop along the way and take a few days off work!

Confluence Kayaks also provides the option for beginners’ lessons starting on flat water, and the possibility of intermediate and advanced lessons on moving water. 

For a bit more of a challenge, Deckers run on the South Platte River is approximately 16 miles in total and there are ample camping opportunities along the way, depending on where your put-in and take-out spots are planned. If you want to try something new, paddle to Lone Rock Campground. This spot along the South Platte River has some particularly great opportunities for fly fishing. The South Platte River itself is such an amazing spot for fishing that it has earned Gold Metal Waters status from the Colorado Wildlife Commission. Other campsites are available below Strontia Springs Dam at Roxborough State Park, with chances for some more challenging paddling. Flow conditions, as always, are dependent on the time of year and amount of rainfall. Chatfield Reservoir State Recreation Area hosts campsites incredibly close to Denver for quick and accessible paddling trips. 

The best part about river paddling is the ability to customize the trip. South Platte River allows for a quick, calm day of paddling, or the potential for a longer, more challenging trip. A short drive from Denver opens up a whole host of opportunities to enjoy kayaking, canoeing, or a relaxing tube float. South Platte River provides a beautiful getaway without hours in the car!

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Big Soda Lake

Looking for a calm lake with sweeping mountain views? Search no further than Big Soda Lake. It is located in Bear Creek Lake Park, nearby Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater, and a short 25-minute drive from downtown Denver. If you are looking to maximize your time in Denver, keep travel time low and head to Big Soda Lake for some paddling. Spend more time out on the water, enjoying the beautiful mountain scenery, than driving in the car to get there! Because it is so close to downtown, Big Soda Lake is a serious hotspot for locals and tourists alike. Knowing that you might not be the only one with the idea to paddle on Soda Lake, try to stagger your visit on a weekday or a similar quiet time to get the full effect of mountain lake paddling. 

If you are ready to book, head to Rocky Mountain Paddleboard and book now! The company offers stand up paddle boards, XL paddle boards, single and double kayaks, canoes, and pedal boats. All of the rentals are available by the hour, and you can get a discount if you book for two hours. Plan for an entry fee of $10 per vehicle. 

Perhaps the best part about Big Soda Lake is that power boats are not allowed, so your paddling experience will be undisturbed by wake. (Perfect for stand-up paddle board yoga lessons!) Relax on the calm water and take in what you came to Colorado for: its amazing natural beauty. Not quite ready to test out the calm waters by trying stand-up paddle board yoga? No fear– there are beginners’ lessons for stand-up paddle boarding, as well. 

If you are planning on rounding out the visit with a trip to the beach, stake out a spot early as the sandy beaches of Big Soda Lake are a popular destination. Rest assured that your basic needs are covered with bathroom access and a concession stand. There are also picnic tables and covered picnic areas available for use. You can make your paddling adventure last longer by booking one of the 47 campsites at Indian Paintbrush Campground, which is located within Bear Creek Lake Park. Take a break from the water on approximately 15 miles of trails, used primarily for horseback riding, hiking, and biking. 

Grab your friends or family for an easy day trip from Denver– tranquil paddling on Big Soda Lake awaits!

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Beyond the Water’s Edge: Other Things to Do in and around Denver

Colorado is an iconic place to visit—from the white-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the tiny-but-bustling communities, everyone has considered taking a trip to Colorado. We primarily like to talk about the water-based activities available in the Denver metro area and along the Front Range, but we’re not so naïve as to think that people come to Colorado for the water. So while you’ll find more water recreation opportunities than you might think at first, we know there are other reasons to visit. We wanted to take a little time and highlight some of our other favorite pastimes.

Let’s start with the canyons—Colorado has a bunch. Black Canyon in Gunnison National Park is one of my favorites. Large and overwhelming, Black Canyon exposes visitors to some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rocks, and craggiest spires in North America. You can hike along the rim, camp on the river, and explore the endless alpine possibilities. Eldorado Canyon State Park offers a similar experience, and it’s right in Boulder’s backyard. Hike the towering sandstone cliffs, picnic along the creek, or climb the canyon’s sheer walls.

There’s no better way to start or end a day of canyon exploring than with—you guessed it—a cup of coffee. Colorado’s coffee shops are community-oriented and sure to serve of the perfect, steaming cup of joe. While you’re there, check out Everyday Joe’s in Fort Collins. This volunteer-run joint was designed to serve the needs of the Fort Collins community; they host concerts, children’s story time, and other unique events. Another personal favorite? Roostercat Coffee House—a Denver staple.

Speaking of Denver, let’s talk about Colorado’s cities. This state is lousy with them. Everyone knows about Denver and Boulder, but they’re worth mentioning because of their sheer beauty. Less-known are Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Durango, Breckenridge, and Aurora—all worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Finally, we’ve arrived at what Colorado is famous for: country. Colorado might have some amazing cities, but people live in those cities to experience the country. Residents joke that everyone has the same three outdoor interests: hiking, climbing, and skiing. Well, from the best hikes in the state to expert snowshoeing tips to discounted Colorado lift tickets, it’s funny because….it’s true.

Denver and Colorado really does have it all. This state has the je ne sais quoi I love to visit and talk about. Along with the state’s water-based activities, don’t underestimate us.


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Understanding the IAAPA and CDC Safety Guidelines at Colorado Waterparks

If you’ve visited a waterpark or amusement park, you’ve likely seen safety signs scattered around the campus. If you’ve visited several parks, you’re likely aware that these signs almost always have the same information. The safety guidelines imposed at all amusement parks and attractions are provided by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, which releases updated amusement park best safety practices every year. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control has its own set of guidelines provided specifically to waterparks. If you need a refresher on this information or want to better understand the reasoning behind certain safety practices, the below guide is just what you need. The first half will cover IAAPA guidelines, whereas the second includes the three basic rules imposed by the CDC.



  • Children under 48″ and non-/weak swimmers should wear a Coast Guard approved life vest. This rule is designed to prevent accidental drowning. If you are unsure of availability and fit, it will help to bring your own. This should be practiced in both waterparks and natural sources of water.


  • Apply waterproof sunscreen throughout the day. Sun protection is essential at waterparks, where there is rarely much shade of accessible indoor space. Additionally, drink plenty of water and avoid beverages with sweeteners.


  • Children in diapers should use waterproof swim diapers. These diapers are designed the minimize potential leakage, which could contaminate large portions of the waterpark and potentially affecting hundreds of people.


  • Carefully read all water park attraction signs. You may think you understand how a slide works, but the park knows its attractions better than you do. Always defer to instructions provided by signs and obey all rules.


  • Follow lifeguard instructions and signal them if you see someone in trouble. Lifeguards are vitally important to the safety of a waterpark. To minimize potential for harm, use the buddy system—especially with children–to ensure nobody is left alone.



  • Do not swim if you have diarrhea. This is one of the easiest ways to accidentally contaminate a waterpark pool. Though it is designed to target children in diapers, all adults should understand how their personal health can potentially impact hundreds of other swimmers.


  • Do not swallow pool water. Do your best to avoid getting water in your mouth. Pool water is often heavily treated to remove bacteria and germs. When you swallow the fluid, you are swallowing either chemicals or dangerous bacteria.


  • Practice good hygiene and shower before swimming. This one is very important, but few people actually shower before swimming in public pools. This step is essential, as it quickly rids your body of harmful bacteria which could enter the public space. Additionally, wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers.


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A Beginner’s Guide to Water Safety

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.


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3 Practices for Summer Safety

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.


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Current and Future Cost of Water in Denver

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.


Future Projections

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.


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Our Favorite Waterparks and Pools in Denver

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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.

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