People enjoy a night out at Dillon Reservoir on August 4. The Dillon Reservoir is one of the deadliest waterways in Colorado, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife documentation.
Liz Copan/For the Daily News Summit

Colorado Parks and Wildlife reported 36 total drownings statewide as of Tuesday, Sept. 13, setting a new record for Colorado. The previous record was set at 34 in 2020.

Dillon Reservoir accounted for three of those counts, placing it among Colorado’s deadliest waterways according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife documentation, but officials say its deaths are marginal compared to the number of visitors who frequent it. .

Colorado broke the 2020 record on September 9 when two brothers drowned in Dillon Reservoir. Summit County Coroner Regan Wood confirmed Friday, Sept. 16, the brothers drowned and said it was accidental. Just a day after the brothers drowned, a man drowned while stand-up paddling without a life jacket on Corn Lake near Grand Junction.

A total of 34 people drowned during recreational activities on Colorado waters this year, and two more people drowned during a flash flood in Larimer County, bringing the total number of drowning deaths to 36 Colorado Parks and Wildlife records show 24 deaths in 2019, 34 in 2020 and 22 in 2021.

Of the three deaths in Summit County, all shared one characteristic – none of the recreational enthusiasts were wearing life jackets. The paddleboarder who drowned on July 16 had a life jacket on his board, but he wasn’t wearing it when a storm hit and threw it into the cold water of the reservoir.

“Most of them could have been avoided with a life jacket,” said Joey Livingston of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, speaking of all Colorado drownings. “The underlying message we want to convey is that water is dangerous and people need to take these dangers seriously for their safety and that of their families.”

To put reservoir drownings into context, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people visit Dillon Reservoir each year, according to estimates provided by Dillon and Frisco Marinas. The Summit County Sheriff’s Office estimates the reservoir has averaged less than one drowning per year for the past decade and a half.

Dillon Marina Manager Craig Simpson said it is incredibly difficult to quantify the exact number of marina visitors given that not all visitors rent a vessel or pass through marinas at all – many just slip their paddle boards into the tank and take off for a day. the water. But in his experience, Simpson said drownings are incredibly unlikely among those using the marina, thanks in part to the many people who follow safety rules and recommendations.

“Three drownings in one year is a big deal for us here at Summit,” Summit Rescue Group spokeswoman Anna DeBattiste wrote in an email.

Alcohol consumption is the leading contributing factor to boating-related deaths, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Summit County Special Operations Division Chief Mark Watson agreed that alcohol is often a contributing factor to local drownings, followed by the lack of a personal flotation device.

When deputies were initially called to the scene on September 9, they were responding to a call from two men who were believed to be drinking and driving in the Heaton Bay area. Wood said a toxicology report takes about five to six weeks, so their blood alcohol level at the time of death is still unknown.

“Some common themes we saw in some of the drownings this year were alcohol use and people swimming from shore, on inner tubes or paddling,” said Grant Brown, safety program manager and Colorado Parks and Wildlife Boat Registry in a press release.

Like many of those who drowned this year, the brothers were also not found far from shore.

“People tend to think that if they’re not in a boat or near shore they’re safe, but that’s not always the case,” Livingston said. “Many lakes have steep drop-offs and become wavy when the wind picks up in the afternoon, so it’s always important to be vigilant when recreating near water.”

Additionally, Colorado has also had two non-drowning deaths on its waterways this year with an accident on Lake Pueblo and a “medical condition” on Lake Granby, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Counting them, the total number of water-related deaths in Colorado is 38.

With that in mind, Colorado Parks and Wildlife advises people to boat sober, wear a life jacket, and avoid boating alone, or at least tell someone where they’re going and when they’ll be back.

Paddleboards are considered ships in Colorado and require a life jacket on board at all times.

The Dillon Reservoir is also a high altitude reservoir, which brings unique dangers. Rangers from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office urge caution as the water is cold to reduce muscle coordination and the weather can be unpredictable and inclement, knocking people off their ships.