SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Colorado has a variety of outdoor activities to enjoy such as white water rafting; however, it is important to practice and follow proper safety procedures.
Juli Yim, 50th Force Support Squadron director of outdoor recreation, said it is important to be aware of possible dangers before going white water rafting.
“High water levels and fast water speeds are things you have to be conscious of,” she said. “Knowing the water levels and speeds can help prevent injuries or maybe even death.”
With spring runoff causing higher and faster water, five people have died white water rafting in Colorado this year.
“I would recommend not going white water rafting unless you’re experienced or have someone who is experienced with you like a guide,” she said. “Going in blind can lead you into a dangerous situation.”
Yim said injures such as scrapes, cuts and muscle soreness are common while white water rafting.
“It’s important to wear proper safety equipment to minimize injury,” she said. “That means wearing a helmet and life jacket at all times.”
Maj. Mark McGregor, 50th Space Wing Individual Mobilization Augmentee chaplain, said he has been white water rafting many times.
“One time when I was on the river, there was a miscommunication with the guide,” he said. “I ended up going down the wrong side of the river, which was much stronger than where I was supposed to go. I capsized and fell into the river, and had it not been for my helmet and life jacket, I could’ve died. My safety gear saved my life.”
McGregor said working as a team while white water rafting can prevent injury and also create a more enjoyable experience.
“Respect the water,” he said. “No matter how strong you think you are, the water is most likely stronger. It’s very difficult to tell what’s under the surface. There can be a strong current and sharp rocks.”
He said it is important to listen to and follow proper safety instructions to minimalize injury.
“Sun protection is important, and that goes beyond sunscreen,” McGregor said. “Eye protection is important because ultra-violet rays can reflect off the water and strain your eyes making you tire more quickly.”
He also said it is important to pay close attention to the weather to avoid dangerous conditions.
“Enjoy nature to its fullest,” McGregor said. “Stay safe and communicate with one another. Listen to instructions and follow the right precautions and you should be fine.”
Yim said the sun can be dangerous not only to Airmen’s eyes, but their skin as well.
“Make sure to wear sunscreen at all times,” Yim said. “If you don’t you can get sunburn which can cause damage to your skin. Long-term, you can develop more serious conditions such as skin cancer.”
Yim also said hydrating is essential to Airmen’s health, especially while participating in high energy activities.
“Because you’re surrounded by water, people seem to think hydrating isn’t as important,” Yim said. “However, this couldn’t be more wrong. You’re actually more likely to get dehydrated when white water rafting due to the reflection of the sun off of the water, this is especially true since we are at a higher elevation, we’re exposed to more intense ultra-violet rays. Make sure to hydrate and not with lake water either. Bring a water bottle.”
She said not to be scared to go white water rafting.
“Be smart, bring a wingman do research, and follow the proper safety procedures,” Yim said. “But most importantly, have fun and enjoy yourself.”