Swimming in lakes, rivers and streams can be safe at designated swimming areas that are protected by lifeguards. However, drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury and death in the U.S.  More skills and energy are required for natural water environments because of cold water and air temperatures, currents, waves and other conditions—and these conditions can change due to weather. Knowing how to survive and get out of a river current can save your life - and others.
Realize that rivers may have very fast currents, and getting caught in the rushing water can be very dangerous.Even if you've been to this river before, check for:
Unexpected changes in air or water temperature (from weather, or other natural causes)
Fast-moving currents, waves and rapids, even in shallow water.
Hazards, such as dams, underwater obstacles, or rocks or debris moving on the surface or along the bottom of the water.
Try to determine how fast the water is moving. Throwing objects, especially buoyant objects, such as wood, or a ball into the middle of the river will begin to give you an idea of the speed. But remember, you can’t really know how fast the undercurrent is moving and just because the surface is moving slow doesn’t mean it’s safe.
Plan ahead and inform everyone in your group to keep them safe. Know the abilities of those going with you, including swimming abilities and level of supervision required. Be sure to provide appropriate supervision.
Ensure everyone learns to swim well by enrolling them in age-appropriate learn-to-swim courses.
Have weak swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets whenever they are in, on or around water. Do not rely upon water wings or inflatable toys; they can enable swimmers to go beyond their ability or suddenly deflate, which could lead to a drowning situation.