HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After a busy and deadly year on Tennessee waterways, state wildlife officers are urging kayakers and paddlers to stay safe as they get an early start to the boating season.
"Traffic has already picked up," TWRA Wildlife officer Eric Anderson said. "We're seeing more and more people every weekend, every warm day now."
"The heavy boating time of year is right around the corner which is May through August," Anderson continued.
Anderson said that early start follows an especially busy year on the water when Tennessee set records for boat traffic. The added traffic also meant more incidents, and state officials saw a spike in deaths on waterways last year. 31 people died on Tennessee waters, and five of those incidents involved paddle crafts like kayaks or canoes.
"Those numbers were a stark increase to the years prior," Anderson said.
So as the TWRA prepares for another busy year, they're urging caution.
"It's not just on areas of rivers, but on our big lakes that you need to consider safety," he said, adding that no matter what kind of boat you are on, a life jacket is essential. "You can't say it enough to wear your life jacket, there are so many things that can happen on our waterways and if you have that life jacket on, it will save your life."