Officials urge caution on the water this summer

Officials estimate there are 500 drownings each year in the country

With the beautiful weather this weekend, many people headed out on the mighty Mississippi River.

Saturday marked the beginning of National Safe Boating Week, and officials this weekend are doing their part to remind everyone to be safe and responsible while driving a boat.

It is estimated that around 500 people drown in recreational boating accidents nationwide each year, which is why officials with the Wisconsin DNR are on the river watching out for your safety.

DNR Wardens Ed McCann and Shawna Stringham spend their days outside, patrolling the river and keeping boaters safe.

“Basically (we’re) focusing on boating safety and also addressing some fishing issues,” said McCann.

The day starts out slow for the team, but the pair decide to check the licenses of a couple of fishermen. While stopping them, they also notice some outdated life jackets. McCann advises the fishermen to look for new ones.

It’s one of the biggest concerns they see on the river.

“They have to remember that they have to have one wearable type life jacket on board for every person on board the boat,” he said.

They also discuss the impacts of alcohol and boating. While they want you to have a good time, they also want you to be smart.

“With the sun, and the wind, and the heat, and the waves out there, that really compounds the effects of alcohol. So where you might not feel as buzzed on the shore, on a boat, that really sort of triples the effects,” said McCann.

They don’t issue any citations on this day, but they hope their presence still makes a difference.

“I think people take it for granted. They’re in a boat, just motoring around for a little bit, and something unsafe happens, people end up in the water, and it’s really important that we don’t lose any more lives,” said McCann.

In addition to the Wisconsin DNR, both the county and the city of La Crosse have similar boat patrols looking to keep those safe out on the water.