Every summer, the deep waters, swift currents and cold temperatures of High Rocks attract thousands of water lovers and risk takers. However, American Medical Response strongly cautions those who dare to dive in to take the necessary precautions to ensure safety.

by: PHOTO BY: COREY BUCHANAN - Created in 1999 to decrease the summer fatality average at High Rocks, American Medical Responses program is U.S. Lifesaving Association certified.“People call it (High Rocks between Gladstone and Oregon City) a popular swimming hole, but really, people shouldn’t come here unless they are prepared,” AMR spokeswoman Lucie Drum said.

In order to prevent the two to four deaths that occurred during the 1990s, AMR instituted a River Rescue program more than a decade ago. Created in 1999 to decrease the summer fatality average at High Rocks and Glenn Otto Park, the program is U.S. Lifesaving Association-certified.

River Rescue program lead instructor Scott Stafford is one of many river rescuers who were trained to be emergency medical technicians and swift-water technicians by AMR.

Since 1999, 560,000 people have swum in the two parks combined. Swift-water technicians have saved 85 people from drowning and assisted countless others in navigating the treacherous terrain.

The AMR outlines a laundry list of dos and don’ts for swimming at High Rocks.

They say every child must wear a life jacket in, near or on the water and every adult must wear a life jacket in or on the water.

“If a child falls in, the current is strong enough to move them downstream,” Stafford said.

They also recommend always swimming near a lifeguard and with a buddy.

But when drowning, AMR advises not to treat the rescuer as a mechanism for climbing up to the surface because grabbing onto someone often can pull them underwater as well, leaving both parties drowning.

“We usually have to rescue the buddy as well when they try to rescue their friend,” Stafford said.

Instead, Stafford says people who see someone in danger should “throw, don’t go,” meaning throw an object that will help the drowning person float and call 911 right away. They also advise swimmers to stay hydrated and always wear sunscreen.

The lifeguards are on duty from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. every day at High Rocks Park and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Glenn Otto Park.

“We strongly suggest not going into the water during off-hours,” Stafford said.

He also wants to put to rest the assumption that drowning is typically a loud and easily visible event.

“Swimmers often get so exhausted, and they quietly just go under,” Stafford says.

Consequently, he says people should always be aware of others around them.

The AMR works with Oregon City, Gladstone, Clackamas County and the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office when an incident, such as a drowning, arises.

Stafford said: “When there is a big incident, we collaborate and work together.”

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