Water Safety

Each year, tens of thousands of people visit waterways and parks near Idaho Power dams, and the more you know about dams, the safer you’ll be. Here are the basic parts of most hydroelectric dams.

illustration of a dam and the various parts are marked with letters corresponding to the list below.
  • A — Reservoir
  • B — Penstocks
  • C — Spillway
  • D — Powerhouse
  • E — Tailrace

Each of these areas can be dangerous, especially the inlets for the penstocks and the tailrace. Follow these guidelines when near a dam:

  • Don’t wade, swim, fish or anchor your boat directly upstream from a dam or spillway. Normal power plant operations can cause unexpected and rapid changes in the water level. Also, water that flows into the dam’s penstocks can create strong, unseen currents that could pull you underwater.
  • Keep off of the banks next to the spillway.
  • Keep away from the dam’s tailrace. The water in this area could be calm if a generator is not working but may become turbulent if the generator suddenly comes back on-line.
  • Look up for overhead power lines when raising a sailboat mast. Stay clear of any area beneath overhead power lines.
  • Know and follow state boating safety guidelines.
  • Watch for submerged objects. Don’t dive, swim or wade without first checking for underwater hazards.
  • Wear a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device or a life jacket when boating or using fishing waders.
  • Keep alert when near a dam and be prepared to leave the water quickly.
  • If caught in rising water, stay calm and move diagonally across the current until you reach safety.
  • If trapped on an island that’s not likely to become submerged, stay there and signal for help. Do not try to swim or wade across the river.

Idaho Power’s Safety Measures

Most Idaho Power dams have sirens and strobe lights that signal when dam spillgates are about to open. If you hear or see one of these warning signals, immediately leave the area downstream of the dam or the spillway.

Buoy lines and cables with warning signs are there to keep boaters and swimmers at a safe distance from our dams. Don’t cross, tie up to or go under these lines. You could be swept over the dam’s spillway or pulled under by strong currents.

Don’t climb over protective fences near spillways, dams and substations.