Safety on, around water should be everyone’s priority

Water is such an integral part of life here in the Upper Peninsula. But, unfortunately for some people, it can also be a part of death.

Living on the shores of the Great Lakes, Michiganders are fortunate to have such an incredible attraction right at their fingertips.

Lake Superior, or the greatest of the Great Lakes, as some might say, is more than a quarter mile deep at its deepest point. Its volume, when measured at low water, is 2,900 cubic miles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and its shoreline stretches 2,726 miles, when including islands.

Lake Superior’s recreational opportunities are nearly as vast as the big lake itself, from fishing and boating, to kayaking and even surfing, when the right conditions arise. And on those hot summer days, when the sun is beating down and temperatures actually start to creep up above 80 degrees — yes, it does happen now and then — there are few more enjoyable things to do than grabbing a sandwich from a local joint, or loading up the cooler, and heading down to the lake to take a dip and lay out on the sand.

Summertime along Superior’s shoreline is almost like island living — everything slows down a bit to a more relaxed pace — and that’s part of the draw.

The lake itself, as strange as it may sound, speaks to people in a certain way, calling them down to its shoreline for a multitude of reasons.

But as majestic and beautiful as Lake Superior is, there are dangers lurking beneath the surface.

Rip currents wind their ways through some parts of the lake, like serpents through weeds, and they’ll catch unsuspecting victims who wade into their paths, trying their best to drag those poor souls down to Lake Superior’s dark blue depths.

Knowing where those rip currents are most common — such as near Picnic Rocks in Marquette, for example — is an absolute must for those of us planning to venture out into the lake this summer. Another thing all of us should know is to swim with the current, rather than fighting it, as you’ll only tire yourself out. But if you can swim with the current and toward shore until you’re out of the current, there’s a better chance you’ll reach land.

One other tip that’s based on a lot of common sense: Don’t swim when the waves look too big and dangerous.

If the waves are powerful enough to sink steel-hulled ore ships, or demolish the parking lot at Shiras Park near Picnic Rocks like we saw last year, then they are strong enough and unrelenting enough to drown you.

There have been several drowning and near-drowning experiences on Lake Superior in recent years, and no one wants another.

Efforts have been made to improve the safety of the shoreline here, by educating the public and raising awareness of the dangers of Lake Superior, as well as installing life-saving stations stocked with emergency equipment, like flotation devices that can be used by passersby to help those in distress reach safety.

At least in part, it comes down to the individual to use common sense on whether they should be on the water, and we all need to be responsible.

A rising death toll is not what anyone wants for Lake Superior, so please do your best to keep that number where it is.