The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) is advising recreational boaters to use extreme caution this Memorial Day weekend as the National Weather Service has issued flood warnings in several locations throughout Southwest and Central Virginia.

DGIF Conservation Police Officers (CPOs) have responded to and worked several boating incidents that have resulted in fatalities and injuries to boaters who have attempted to navigate waters that were affected by heavy rains creating significantly higher than normal water levels, dangerously swift current and trash and other debris that could be floating on the surface or just below the waterline.

“Disregarding safety messages and attempting to boat on rising or flooded waters not only puts the boaters at risk, but also our CPOs and other first responders that are called to rescue them," said Major Scott Naff with DGIF’s Conservation Police. Major Naff also urges the boating public to heed safety warnings and check conditions before they attempt to launch.

If you are a canoer, kayaker or other recreational boater and chose to launch on any river, DGIF makes the following recommendations:

· We strongly urge you to think before you go. Always check local river conditions. A resource for this is the American Whitewater website: https://www.americanwhitewater.org.

· Check your local forecast. Pop-up storms can cause flash flooding and water levels can change drastically and quickly.

· Check the river and lake conditions with the National Weather Service (Wakefield office: https://www.weather.gov/akq/; Blacksburg office: https://www.weather.gov/rnk/).

· Be aware that it is possible that high water will force the temporary closing of some boat ramps.

· Have a good plan and share your plan with someone who knows where you will be and when to expect you to return.

· Finally, make sure you have the proper equipment onboard and that you wear a properly sized and fitted life jacket. Remember that life jackets do save lives.

DGIF is the boating agency for the Commonwealth and strives to ensure the safety of all who venture out to enjoy time on Virginia’s waterways. DGIF recommends that all boaters and paddlers take a boating safety course, whether they are required to or not by law.

Information on taking a boating safety course can be found here: https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/boating/education/requirement/steps-to-requirement/.

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