California State Parks Encourages Visitors to Recreate Safely and Responsibly During Memorial Day Weekend

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SACRAMENTO, Calif.California State Parks invites Californians and visitors from around the world to recreate responsibly during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, one of the busiest outdoor holiday weekends of the year. California’s diverse landscape has recreational activities for everyone, from swimming in lakes, rivers, and oceans to hiking among giant redwoods or sequoias to off-highway vehicle riding in deserts and mountains to camping along the coastline. Following simple safety precautions, such as wearing a properly fitted life jacket or proper riding gear, avoiding alcohol, and knowing one’s limits while engaged in aquatic activities, can help save lives.

With 280 state parks, California State Parks manages over 340 miles of coastline, 970 miles of lake and river frontage, and 5,200 miles of trails. There are plenty of outdoor opportunities to spend time with family and friends, reconnect with nature and enjoy the benefits state parks offer to your mental and physical health. But keep in mind, preparing for recreational activities should include simple precautions for safe recreation.

Here are some helpful tips to stay safe during this holiday weekend:

  • Wear a Life Jacket Around Water: Water-related accidents can happen suddenly and rapidly. Make sure you and those with you wear properly fitting, U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets, especially children. Wearing a life jacket is the best way to increase your chances of survival during an incident. View locationswhere public agencies and private organizations offer to loan life jackets to the public.
  • Prepare an Itinerary: No matter what type of recreational activity you are planning, leave an itinerary of your trip with a family member or friend with information such as the names and ages of all participants, your travel destination, and your expected return date. This will provide law enforcement personnel with essential information if an emergency response may be needed.
  • Know Before You Go: Prior to leaving home, check the status of the state park you want to visit to find out what current restrictions and guidelines are in place. Have a back-up plan in case your destination is crowded. On arrival, park only in designated spaces.
  • Check the Weather:
    • Plan activities based on temperatures throughout the day.
    • Dress in proper clothing for the activities you are planning.
    • Shield yourself from the sun with a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
    • Hydrate. Drink plenty of water and avoid alcoholic and caffeinated fluids.
  • Protect Your Loved Ones Around Water:
    • Always supervise children by appointing a designated “water watcher,” taking turns with other adults. Never assume someone is watching your children.
    • Know your limits. Swimming in a lake, ocean, or river is different than swimming in a pool. Waves, tides, strong rip currents, and other water hazards can appear quickly and provide little time to act.
    • If someone is in distress, seek help from a lifeguard or call 9-1-1 if one is not available.
    • Obey posted warnings and swim in designated areas or near a lifeguard tower, if available.
  • Avoid Alcohol: Operating a recreational vehicle, including a boat or an off-highway vehicle (OHV), with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more is against the law. Impaired boaters can be arrested even with a lower BAC if the conditions are not safe and your boat can be impounded. Some parks do have alcohol bans. Check each specific park website to determine if there are local ordinances concerning alcohol.
  • Ocean Rip Currents: If you get caught in a rip current, stay calm and do not fight the current. Swim or float parallel to the shore until you are out of the current and then swim toward the shore.
  • Trails: Whether you are hiking, horseback riding, or operating an OHV, stay on designated trails. This includes boardwalks in sensitive ecological areas. You are not only protecting natural resources, but also ensuring you do not get lost. Check with State Park staff or volunteers about trails best suited for your abilities. Make sure to hike with a buddy.
  • Leave No Trace: Leave areas better than you find them by packing out all trash. Put food waste and other waste in the bags until it can be disposed of properly. For human waste, the use of waste alleviation (WAG) gel bags or other portable toilet options is recommended. WAG bags can be safely disposed of in regular trash. Do not disturb wildlife or plants.

You can find additional safety tips and information on backpacking, biking, camping, horseback trails, and laws at

California State Parks is honoring the service of veterans, and active and reserve military members, by offering free admission to 143 participating state park units on Memorial Day – Monday, May 27, 2024. The list of participating park units can be found at

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California State Parks provides for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high quality outdoor recreation.