New Mexico

Officials urge people not to swim in Rio Grande, irrigation canals

Officials urge people not to swim in...

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - Officials are urging people visiting Leesburg State Park, expected to draw thousands of visitors throughout the summer, not to swim in the water.

"We always advise people to not go into the water," Dona Ana County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Kelly Jameson said. "It seems like a safe environment, but it is not."

Jameson says the biggest danger when diving into the water is the current. "The water is rushing very quickly, and of course, the closer you get to the damn the more in danger you are," she said.

Officials advise those who plan to swim to wear a life jacket.

"Take care of your kids and yourself," one swimmer said. "Don't go too deep and follow the rules."

Signs are posted on the fence along the water line warning people of the dangers of the water. The signs, both in Spanish and English, say people can swim at their own risk stating: "very strong river currents exists. Please watch your children closely and avoid swimming near fishing areas and fishing lines."

Although the river poses a serious threat, officials say so do irrigation canals.

"We definitely have swimmers in our canals,"  Elephant Butte Irrigation District Manager Gary Esslinger said. "We have had no deaths this year, but we have had deaths in our canal system in the past."

Esslinger said no one should ever swim in the canals.

"If we find swimmers we report them to the Sheriff and run them off, because it is trespassing and it is dangerous," Esslingen said.

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