The Miami Valley Fire Department is warning the public of the dangers of low head dams after responding to kayakers at the Great Miami River Memorial Day Weekend.
Crews were called to two kayakers stuck in the dam after going over it.
“Low Head Dams are not waterfalls! They are very dangerous hydraulics that should always be avoided. They are referred to as ‘Drowning Machines’ for good reason,” the fire department wrote in a social media post.
Low head dams are “a manufactured structure, built in a river or stream channel, extending fully across the banks low head dam is designed and built such that water flows continuously over the crest from bank to bank,” according to the National Weather Service.
There were 111 reported deaths due to incidents caused by low head dams nationally just between 2018 and 2020, according to the NWS.
Since the water is constantly recirculated, it can trap swimmers and potentially cause them to drown.
If trapped, the Ohio Department of National Resources suggests:
Tuck the chin down, draw the knees up to the chest with arms wrapped around them.
If attempting a rescue of a trapped person, always wear a life jacket. Throw a line from shore to the person in danger. Untrained rescuers should never approach the hydraulic in a boat. Call for help if possible.
Unlike rapids, the moving water below the dam flows back upstream and carries objects back toward the dam. The boat motor or paddling efforts are powerless against the river due to the amount of air in the water.
For more information about low head dams and what to look for visit the ODNR website.