Steelhead Beach swimmers

Playing it Safe on the Russian River

By Regional Parks Staff

Summer on the Russian River! It's an iconic Sonoma County experience, and each year thousands of residents and visitors look forward to swimming, paddling, and tubing on this beautiful warm-weather playground.

But playing on the river is not without risk. Yes, the water looks calm and inviting on a hot summer day, but there can be unseen hazards beneath the surface, including sudden drop offs, changing currents, snags and boulders. So, at the risk of sounding like your mom, we ask you to please be safe out there.

Kids in life vests, always 

Girl in Life Vest on the Russian RiverRegional Parks' Russian River beaches do not have full-time lifeguards on duty, so we recommend swimmers wear life vests, especially if you're not a strong swimmer or you're drinking alcohol. We do provide free life vests for adults and children at Steelhead, Forestville River Access, Sunset and Healdsburg Veterans Memorial beaches during the summer. Just take one from the life vest racks on the beach, use it for the day and drop it back at the rack when you leave. 

Children always should be in life vests when they're in or near the river. This includes wading and splashing near the beach.

Wading at Memorial Beach in Healdsburg

If you are a fan of the family friendly setting at Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach, please know that we are not installing the summer dam at the beach in 2021, due to the drought and reduced river flows. The beach is open, though summer conditions here are more suitable for wading and sunbathing than deep-water swimming - ideal for families with young children who want a low-risk river experience.

Friends don't let friends swim drunk

Friends Relaxing on the Russian RiverAnother safety issue we encounter on the river is excessive drinking. Alcohol and swimming are a dangerous mix, so please practice moderation when you’re enjoying a day at the beach. River swimming requires a lot of judgment calls, and you don't want your thinking impaired.

And, lastly, please be a good neighbor while visiting river communities. Respect private property near the beaches. Stay out of people’s yards, keep the noise down, and don't litter. (That may mean packing out trash to the parking lot or to your car, and it definitely means taking your rafts and tubes with you when you leave.)

The Russian River truly is a treasure for Sonoma County residents and visitors, so let's enjoy it safely. 

Updated: May 2021

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