Cold water dangerous to boaters this Memorial Day weekend

Courtesy of the Minnesota DNR

Minnesotans are eager to hit the water for Memorial Day weekend, but the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reminding boaters that warmer weather does not mean warm water.

“For boaters and swimmers, our current water temperatures can prove dangerous, or even deadly, if they don’t consider the effect cold water has on their body,” said Capt. Greg Salo, DNR Region 3 enforcement manager. “Water temperature below 70 degrees is considered cold.”

Water temperatures on Lake Minnetonka and the St. Croix River are currently in the 60s, even though air temperatures this week have been in the 70s.

Falling into frigid water can cause an immediate gasp for air and the shock of the icy water can also cause cardiac arrest, even for people in good health. Cold water robs the body of heat 25 times faster than air of the same temperature, Salo added.

So far this year, there have been no boating fatalities in Minnesota, compared to four deaths for the same period last year. “This is the first time since 2004 Minnesotans are going into Memorial Day weekend without a boating fatality,” Salo said. Fifteen people died in boating accidents in 2012.

The DNR offers tips for safe and responsible boating including:

  • State law requires a U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable life jacket for each person on board all watercraft.
  • All children under 10-years-old are required to wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket while a boat is underway.
  • Alcohol and boating don’t mix.
  • If a watercraft becomes swamped or capsized, try to reboard or stay with the craft.
  • Take a boater course and receive a boat education certificate.

For information on taking a boating course and other boating safety information visit,