July is the most common month for drownings to occur in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
Stay safe on the river this holiday weekend, and throughout the year, by wearing a life jacket while swimming, boating or fishing.
“Anytime you're in or on the Delaware River, wear a properly-fitted and fastened life jacket,” the recreation area posted on Facebook this week. “If we could only give one piece of advice about visiting the park to everyone, it would be to wear a life jacket.”
From 1971 through 2020, 101 people drowned in the recreation area — mostly in the Delaware River, though 12 drownings were in tributaries, lakes or ponds. Of these, 41 drownings were in July, with August having the second-most at 26.
The total climbed to 102 last month when 23-year-old Christopher Schofield, of Stroudsburg, drowned while trying to swim across the river.
On the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River, four people drowned in a two-week period in 2021, bringing the drowning toll to 73 people on that part of the river.
None of the drownings in either section of the river involved people who were properly wearing life jackets.
"The majority of drownings in the park have happened when the victims were swimming, even if they began their day on a boating/paddling trip," NPS spokesperson Kathleen Sandt said. "People don't always think about wearing a life jacket when they are swimming but with river's swift current, steep drop offs, rapid changes in depth, and underwater hazards park rangers recommend that everyone wear a properly fitted and fastened life jacket when swimming, floating, fishing, or boating on, or in, the Delaware River."
How to make sure a life jacket fits properly
Look for the manufacturer’s size and weight ratings, as well as U.S. Coast Guard approval, the National Safe Boating Council advises.
Make sure the life jacket isn’t too small (it “may not be able to keep your body afloat,” the NSBC says) or too big (that “will cause the flotation device to push up around your face, which could be dangerous”). This include putting children in appropriate, child-sized life jackets.
“Check for fit by raising your arms above your head while wearing the life jacket and ask a friend to grasp the tops of the arm openings and gently pull up,” the NSBC instructs. You should have a snug fit that does not allow the life jacket to “ride up over your chin or face.”
Where should you swim in the Delaware River?
Life guards are on duty from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Monday at Milford Beach until Aug. 27.
Smithfield and Turtle beaches do not have life guards. Beyond the three beaches, swimming “is permitted, but not recommended.”
“Swimming is not permitted within 50 feet of a boat launch, a canoe launch, or the top of any waterfall,” the NPS says. Additionally, swimming is off-limits at Kittatinny Point, New Jersey; Van Campens Glen, New Jersey; Dingmans Falls, Pennsylvania; and George W. Childs Recreation Site, Pennsylvania.
Within DWGNRA, “Strong currents, sharp drop-offs, and constantly changing river conditions make many areas unsafe for swimming,” the NPS says.
More river safety tips
Don’t swim alone.
Don’t attempt to swim across the river.
Don’t get in or on the river while intoxicated.
This article originally appeared on Pocono Record: Most drownings happen on the Delaware River in July.