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.

For the summer of 2020, recreation along the river looks different. River parks can be used for the usual summer activities - swimming, boating, sunbathing and fishing – but visitors must follow public health guidelines for physical distancing and face coverings. Find out more about how to safely visit the parks.

Beyond the current health crisis, playing in 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 RiverMost of Sonoma County's Russian River beaches don’t 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. Children always should be in life vests when they're in or near the river. This includes wading and splashing near the beach. We typically provide life vests for free use at our river beaches. However, in 2020, the vests might not be readily available due to new hygiene regulations, so please bring your own.

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 2020, due to impacts of the health emergency and projections for reduced river flows. The beach is open, though summer conditions here are more suitable for wading and sunbathing than swimming.

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.)

The Russian River truly is a treasure for us in Sonoma County, so let's enjoy it safely. 

Published/Updated: June 2020

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