DNR Water Patrol Officer Ryan Wilcox.

State parks and lakes have been busy in the first holidays since things reopened after the pandemic and that is expected to continue once again for the Fourth of July.

DNR boating law administrator, Susan Stocker, says some people will already take off today  — and says the campgrounds, parks, and waterways will be full as everyone wants to get out and celebrate.

Stocker says you should do a thorough check of your boat before heading out — including a count to be sure there is a life jacket for everyone. “A lot of people like to use the logic that they can swim. Wearing a life jacket is the only thing that’s gonna save your life,” according to Stocker. “Unfortunately, approximately 86% of all drownings are people who are not wearing a life jacket.” Stocker says an accident can happen quickly and you can be thrown from a boat.

“You’re not going to be able to have a life jacket on, and another thing about water.. the life jacket goes in one direction and the boat goes in the other direction and you are not going to be able to find it. So the only way to protect yourself is to be able to wear it before anything happens,” she says.

Stocker says one thing you don’t need if you are driving a boat is alcohol. Operating a boat and alcohol don’t mix. People don’t realize and understand that the stressors of the wind, the sun, the glare off the water — all enhance the effects of alcohol. So, the alcohol needs to stay home and make sure everybody is safe,” Stocker says.

Using fireworks is governed by local jurisdictions — but Stocker says one rule is to keep them off the boat. “You certainly do not ever want to light fireworks on a boat at all. Wait until onshore, maybe at the campsite…to make sure it is safe because you do have the gas and vapors and fumes,” Stocker says. She says those gas vapors and fumes can catch the boat on fire or cause an explosion if the fireworks are lit.

Stocker says state conservation officers will be out looking for violations and helping keep everyone safer during the holiday.