Warnings don’t stop Clackamas River swimmers

Water temperature 68 degrees, similar to late summer

A swimmer safety measure in place at High Rocks on the Clackamas River, June 16, 2015 (KOIN)
A swimmer safety measure in place at High Rocks on the Clackamas River, June 16, 2015 (KOIN)

CLACKAMAS, Ore. (KOIN) — The water in the Clackamas River at High Rocks looks and feels more like late August than mid-June. It’s warmer and the current isn’t as swift, a lifeguard patrolling the area told KOIN 6 News.

The water temperature is a late-summer 68 degrees. The posted warning signs don’t deter swimmers from getting into the water and into trouble.

The Clackamas River at a section in Riverside Park, June 16, 2015 (KOIN)
The Clackamas River at a section in Riverside Park, June 16, 2015 (KOIN)

A swimmer rescued from the Clackamas River Monday died later as a result of natural causes. He struggled in water that looked as smooth as glass just a quarter mile upstream from Riverside Park.

It’s the second water-related death on the Clackamas River this week.

Oregon state rules governing water use do not require swimmers to have life jackets. There is a warning sign at the beach to Riverside Park not to have alcohol, as well as a warning sign to swimmers about dangerous currents.

About a mile downstream at High Rocks, the sign leading to the water reminds swimmers 10 people have died here in the last 14 years.

American Medical Response Rescue crew at Clackamas River in Riverside Park, June 16, 2015 (KOIN)
American Medical Response Rescue crew at Clackamas River in Riverside Park, June 16, 2015 (KOIN)

“Where we see people running into problems is they’re mixing alcohol with water sports, they don’t have a life jacket and more often than not they’re not with a group of people,” said Brandon Paxton with Clackamas Fire & Rescue.

One thing that has apparently worked is the AMR life-saving station at High Rocks. Their presence here has dramatically reduced the number of incidents, lifeguard Russell Franklin-Lyons said.

“It happens a lot here at High Rocks,” Franklin-Lyon said. “They don’t swim in a pool, they think they can swim in the river for some reason.”

KOIN 6 News is waiting for a response from Clackamas County officials if they would be willing to pay to expand the AMR lifeguard program.

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