Beginner's guide to the Potomac River

Before people hit the water, they must get to know the DNR's rules, regulations

WILLIAMSPORT, Md. - June has been no stranger to 90 degree weather, so that means that the Potomac River is now summer central.

Before boaters, swimmers and fishermen hit the water, they must learn the DNR’s set of rules and regulations.

Ignorance is not an excuse.

One example is fishing. Everyone 16 and older must purchase a license. The basic license starts at $20.50.

“The DNR is definitely present all along the Potomac, so, you might get away [with] it once, but you’re not gonna get away with it the second or third time,” said Dawn Blair, Downsville General Store.

For some, a day on the river means alcohol. If you’re boozing and tubing, it’s okay, as long as everyone involved behaves in a civilized, safe manner.

"It's when people get messy, when people start littering, people start dumping things into the water -- you draw attention to yourself. We're gonna come over to you, and then, you know, that's when the trouble starts,” said Candy Thomson, Maryland Natural Resources Police Public Information Office. (PIO)

Anyone behind the wheel of the boat is required to abide by .08 blood alcohol limit.

"The biggest thing in the summertime is it doesn't take much to be impaired. So, that's the number one thing. The other is you always want to make sure -- it's just like driving a car -- you always want to make sure that you have one person that's designated to drive that boat,” Blair said.

Kids younger than 13 are required to wear life jackets on board boats, but considering that half of Maryland’s water fatalities occurred on the Potomac River last year, Thomson said it's never a bad idea to wear one. 

"You could be Michael Phelps as a swimmer, and if you're incapacitated in any way, you're gonna have trouble, and that life jacket is what buys you time,” Thomson said
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This year, DNR said they're going after bow riders. Bow riders are boat passengers who dangle their feet over the edge of a moving boat.

Bow riding is illegal and highly dangerous. Last year, a boy in Ocean City died from bow riding.

"When you fall off the front of the boat, sometimes the boat travels right over you, and that propeller can go from your head to your toes in less than a tenth of a second,” Thomson said.

In 2015, 21 people died in Maryland waters. This was the most deadly year in decades. Last year, of the 17 water deaths, half occurred on the Potomac River. 


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