The US Army Corps of Engineers, Huntington District, reminds boaters that the areas immediately upstream and downstream of navigation dams on the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers have been designated as restricted areas. A number of boating accidents have occurred in the past when vessels entered the restricted areas above and below the locks and dams. These areas are very dangerous and have been permanently designated as restricted to everyone except those on official business. Vessel operators who enter these areas risk their lives and property.
When operating a boat on the river, boaters should be aware of the dangers near the locks and dams. Always pay attention to the buoys and signs near these areas. Within the restricted areas near the dams, strong reverse currents are present. At these points, whirlpool can also occur. These strong and unpredictable currents on both sides of the dams can cause immediate danger if approached too closely. When upstream of the dam, currents can quickly carry your watercraft through the dam resulting in an accident that could cause injury or even death. Restricted area buoys are located at a safe distance from the dam in an attempt to keep boaters away from these dangers.
When river levels are rising, the currents and turbulence become more powerful and can increase the dangers in and around the restricted areas. Boating in these restricted areas of a dam is dangerous. Debris washing over or through the dam could cause your boat to become disabled or capsized before you have time to react. Never anchor near the spillway of a dam as the strong, unpredictable currents could pull a boat under the water.
Some shorelines are open to fishing from the riverbank close to the dam. Swimming in these restricted waters is prohibited. Use caution when in these areas as the banks near the shoreline may be slippery. If you fall in the water near the dam, you may be carried into and/or over the dam. The current on both sides of the dam is very strong and even the best swimmers may not have the strength to get back to the edge of the water.
Next time you decide to go boating on the rivers, heed warning to the signs and buoys around the locks and dams. Neglecting to do so could result in injury, loss of watercraft or even death. As always, practice boating safety, let someone “know, before you go” and always wear your life jacket.
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