MOUNT VERNON — The summer months are here and more people are gathering on the water for some fun.

With recent events where that fun has turned to tragedy, water safety is something everyone should know.

“The best way to stay safe is to wear a life jacket,” Mike Miller of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said. “Life jackets, in good condition and of appropriate size and fit, are the number one way to prevent drowning.”

Miller said that with the variety of life jackets available everyone should be able to find one for every activity.

Overestimating your skill level and ability when it comes to swimming and operating a vessel is the most common mistake a person makes when out on the water, Miller said. Before you go out, Miller continues, check the water levels at the U.S. Geological site, waterdata.usgs.gov. The site has continuous monitors that show the average level and today’s river level.

Always have a “float plan,” Miller said. A “float plan” is when you tell someone where you are going and how long you expect to be gone. If you don’t return by that time, the person can alert the proper authorities.

Doug McLarnan, who is part of the Ohio Council of the American Canoe Association, said that cautionary signs are needed along the rivers, especially the section of the Kokosing River past Millwood.

“It’s not a new spot where people get lost,” McLarnan said. “The rapid currents, rocks, and the deep level make it difficult to search.”

Signs alone won’t prevent these types of tragedies, he said.

“Locally, we should be coordinating training for water safety and recovery,” he said. A water gauge is needed in Millwood, McLarnan said, to help people have a better understanding of water conditions.

The Knox County Park District has started discussions with ODNR for signs in the area of Hazel Dell Road, park director Lori Totman said.

The ODNR has more information regarding water safety and paddling safety on their website.

Ariel-Foundation Park is offering beginner level kayaking courses through the American Canoe Association. These courses will be held every second and fourth Saturday of the month running through September.

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Jamie Holland: 740-397-5333 or jamie@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @