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Play it safe around water during busy holiday weekend

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With Memorial Day weekend upon us, the outdoor recreation of summer is about to kick off in full force.

Hardly anything is better than loading a boat full of friends and heading to one of Indiana’s magnificent reservoirs or rivers for a relaxing day of fun in the sun on the water. Just be sure to stay safe and use caution when taking to the water.


The Indiana Department of Natural Resources wants you to have fun enjoying the great water resources of our state. It also wants you to remain safe, so you can expect conservation officers to be patrolling the reservoirs and rivers making sure users are in compliance with the law.

There are many laws that come with being a responsible boater. One of the most important is not operating a motorboat while intoxicated. It’s easy to drink too much on a hot summer day when you’re out having fun and swimming, without realizing that you’ve consumed more than the legal limit.

If you plan to drink, make sure there is someone who isn’t that is going to operate your watercraft. Otherwise, your fun day outside can turn into a unpleasant night in jail.

Aside from not operating a motorboat under the influence of alcohol, there are other important laws you must follow when taking to Indiana’s waterways. You must obey the marker buoys and idle zone restricted areas, use navigational lights and anchor lights between sunset and sunrise, and obey the night time speed limit of

10 mph on all inland lakes.

There were 58 open-water drownings in 2013 in Indiana. This set the record for the most in one year. The DNR hopes to see a significant reduction in that number this year. Reducing this number will be easy to do if more boaters simply wear a life jacket.

Lt. Kenton Turner, Indiana’s boating law administrator, said accidents on the water can happen too fast to reach out and put on a life jacket that is stowed away.

“It’s important that everyone wears a lifejacket while on the water,” Turner said. “There is no reason

why you, your family and friends can’t have fun on the water while also wearing a life jacket.”

The DNR has resources to help you be a safer boater. The “Indiana Boating Guide” is available online at Hard copies are available at most boat marinas. You can watch an informative boating violations video at If you witness unsafe boating violations in action or are in need of assistance from a conservation officer, call 812-837-9536.

Indiana is home to numerous extraordinary waters. From Lake Michigan to the Ohio River and everything in-between, there is a magnificent reservoir or river near you.

One of the finest in the state, Monroe Lake, is experiencing high water right now. Because of this, the lake’s beaches at Fairfax and Paynetown Recreation Areas won’t be open Memorial Day weekend. If you are determined to spend the weekend on a beach, you’ll have to visit another destination.

See you down the trail.

Brandon Butler’s outdoors column appears Sundays in The Republic. Send comments to

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