The issue of public safety around dams is important to anyone directly or indirectly involved in recreational activities in rivers or streams, especially as many Hoosiers are visiting areas for water recreation during the summer months.
Thousands of these “low head” dams are scattered across our country including several in and near Columbus, and while the name implies low hazard/low impact, nothing could be further from the truth. Low Head Dams have a quiet, inviting, picture postcard quality about them. But the water going over these dams can rise and erupt into a violent, death trap. These structures, generally less than 15 feet high, can create backflow currents and turbulence capable of producing disorientation, hypothermia, exhaustion, and brutal battering. The forces combine to create a practically inescapable circular trap for even the strongest, life jacket-clad swimmer.
Hoosiers and others planning water recreation in Indiana can access the Indiana DNR Interactive Low Head Dam Map. CLICK HERE to see where low-head dams are located throughout Indiana.
WFYI Indianapolis has created a documentary on the dangers of low head dams. The documentary was filmed in partnership with IDHS, IDNR, the Indiana Silver Jackets, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, Manchester University and the U.S. Geological Survey, among others. CLICK HERE to watch the full documentary, or CLICK HERE to see a one minute preview.
CLICK HERE for tips on low-head dam safety!