April 1, 2023
As warm weather brings opportunities for swimming, fishing, and kayaking in Utah’s rivers, we urge you to be particularly cautious around low-head dams.
A low-head dam is a horizontal structure spanning a river to back up water for irrigation, power, or navigation. Water accelerates over the top of the dam and plunges into the downstream channel, forming a turbulent, recirculating current. Even on small rivers these “submerged hydraulic jumps” or “hydraulic rollers” are deadly to river-goers who unknowingly get trapped in them.
Between 2019 and 2022, at least 151 people died in incidents associated with low-head dams. Most occurred during the recreation season from April to August. Accordingly, April is low-head dam public safety awareness month.
As summer approaches, we urge you to be cautious when recreating on and around rivers and to avoid low-head dams.
Graphic: Iowa Department of Natural Resources