WARRENSBURG - The weather was unseasonably warm recently with temperatures soaring into the 80s, and many area residents enjoyed spring outdoor activities.
But officials with the state Department of Environmental Conservation urge outdoor enthusiasts to exercise caution as they take to the area's many waterways.
DEC Region Five spokesman David Winchell said that just because the air is warm, that doesn't mean the water is. He cautioned that DEC has already performed several rescue operations this spring.
He said that one mishap occurred three weeks ago in Hamilton County when a woman's kayak was overturned on the Sacandaga River when it hit a hidden limb in the water and flipped her into the water, prompting a DEC rescue.
Winchell said that at this time of year, people are often eager to get out of the house and onto the waterways, and they may short-circuit safety.
"Certainly, as the warmer weather arrives, those people who've been stuck indoors all winter are anxious to get out now that the ice is leaving the waters," he said, noting that this time of year poses two major dangers on waterways.
High water levels means that even routinely calm, flat waters, are likely to be quick-flowing.
Plus, they'll undoubtedly be cold, he said.
"If you go in with these cold water temperatures, even if you're a strong swimmer, it can sap your warmth and energy very quickly," Winchell cautioned.
Wearing a life jacket is even more important this time of year, Winchell added.
"A life jacket is going to help a lot," he said. "Because even if you don't have enough strength to keep yourself above water, the life jacket will."
High waters will also carry debris downstream, whether its limbs, refuse or chunks of ice.
"There may be hazards there just below the water that you're not aware of," he said.
Winchell advised that people protect themselves as they venture out for some early spring fun, by knowing the area and being prepared with warm clothing.
"Know the waters you're going into," he said, cautioning paddlers to be informed about the probable velocity of the waterway they're venturing out on. He also warned that paddlers should be realistic about their skill level.
"If you're not a whitewater paddler, you might just want to stay on the lakes or other calmer areas," he said. "Because even waters that during the summer are flat and calm, right now they're running high and fast."
The 2010 fishing season on most waters officially opened April 1. Winchell also reminded residents to check rules and regulations regarding waterways before heading out.