Iowa DNR shares safety tips and guidelines for boaters ahead of Memorial Day weekend

Published: May. 21, 2020 at 12:24 PM CDT
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As Iowans prepare to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend, now that state parks are reopening, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is encouraging visitors to obey all laws and rules.

The rules include physical distancing guidelines.

“Everyone is antsy to get outside and enjoy the beautiful Iowa natural resources after being cooped up all winter and more recently because of the Covid-19 pandemic,” DNR Director Kayla Lyon said. “This weekend will provide a great time for families to get out and explore what our great state has to offer, but we caution everyone to do so safely and responsibly.”

The DNR put together this list of safety tips/guidelines:

  • Wear your life jacket - it floats, you don’t.
  • Alcohol and boating don’t mix. Wind, sun glare and heat can enhance the effects of alcohol hindering the operator’s ability to make decisions.
  • Check for open ramps or water hazards before heading out.
  • Be patient; boat ramps will be busy.
  • Before leaving the house, check the trailer lights, wheel bearings and the hitch.
  • Make sure there is a current fire extinguisher and horn/whistle, a wearable life jacket for everyone and a USCG approved flotation device onboard.
  • Anyone 12 and under on a vessel underway must wear a life jacket.
  • File a float plan with a friend, including your destination, expected time of return and type of boat.
  • Inflatable life jackets are light weight, comfortable and USCG approved. Wear it.
  • Take a boater education course available online at
  • Familiarize yourself with Iowa’s boating laws.
  • Slow down, watch for other boaters or personal watercraft, have patience and most importantly, have a designated operator who will stay clear of any alcohol
  • Drain plugs and other water draining devices must be removed and/or remain open during transport to avoid spreading invasive species.
  • Anglers leaving with fish are recommended to put them on ice, whether in a cooler, a bucket or a live well (plug must still be removed and/or opened).
  • Top two safety violations in Iowa are having inadequate life jackets and operating too fast and too close to other vessels. Boaters should practice the following physical distancing guidelines:
  • Limit the people aboard your boat to people in your immediate household. Gather in groups of 10 or fewer.
  • Stay at least six feet away from other people.
  • Maintain safe distance at the fuel dock, boat ramp or loading up at the marina.
  • Wash hands frequently or use a hand sanitizer regularly.
  • Don’t raft up to other boaters or pull up onto a beach too close to someone else.
  • Avoid any unnecessary stops between your home and the lake to avoid contact with others outside your immediate family.
  • Pack food, water and other items from home that you may need, as restaurants and marina stores may not be open.
  • Stay home if you or someone in your household is sick. For more information, visit