Rip currents, high waves and other dangerous currents and wave conditions can occur in the Great Lakes along their beaches, water outlets (where rivers empty into the lake) and near structures such as piers.
All designated state park swim areas (in addition to many others) located on the Great Lakes use a beach flag warning system: Check the flag upon arrival and be sure to monitor it throughout the day as conditions can change very quickly. Only state park beaches are guaranteed to have a flag system at designated swim areas. Be aware that current high-water conditions can cause stronger currents, especially around river outlets and piers.
Red Flag = STOP
Stay on the beach, do not enter the water and do not swim
Yellow Flag = Caution
Watch for dangerous currents and high waves
Green Flag = Go
Enter the water, but stay aware of changing conditions
Additional safety features & tips
There are buoys marking the swim area: Buoys are present at all state park beaches in addition to most other public and private beaches. Swim only in designated buoyed swim areas and never jump off or swim near piers. Currents found near piers are extremely dangerous.
All state park swim beaches have a lifesaving flotation device: Lifesaving devices are available at all state park beaches in addition to many other public beaches. If you see someone in trouble, call for help and throw the lifesaving device or anything else that floats. Avoid entering the water if possible and if you must go wear a life jacket – it can save you and the person in trouble.
Never swim alone: Be sure someone else is with you in case of an emergency.
Keep close watch of children: Stay within arm's reach and have them wear a lifejacket.
Currents and how to escape from them
Types of Currents
In the Great Lakes, swimmers are most likely to encounter one of five common currents:
Float to calm yourself down from the panic and fear of drowning.
Float to conserve your energy.
Follow the safest path to safety / out of the water.
Never swim against a current. If you are in a dangerous current, assess which way it is pulling you. Then swim perpendicular to the currents flow until you are out of it and then swim toward shore. If you are too tired to swim to shore, continue to float and signal someone on shore for help. Also, the waves may eventually bring you back to shore.
Beach Safety Signs
Beach safety signs tailored to Great Lakes-specific hazards, including rip currents, river outlet currents and structural currents have been created and are available to communities.