John McKay

Yes, people have been doing it for decades, swimming in the Yakima River. For many it presents what they think is a 'safer' alternative to the mighty and sometimes intimidating Columbia.

But nothing could be further from the truth, say officials. According to KNDU-TV, the recent disappearance of a Hanford High senior underscores how dangerous it is, especially from early spring through much of the summer.

Officials with Columbia Basin Dive Rescue say "don't swim in the Yakima, Period."  They say there are numerous unseen obstacles, including underwater stumps, logs, debris, even old bridge pilings in some popular areas. In addition, the water is colder than the Columbia, from runoff in the Cascades. And despite it's sometimes 'smooth' appearance, it's moving fast underneath and has under currents.

Even during later months, when the levels decrease, a swimmer can come across sudden drop offs and potholes that with lower levels, are easier to step or plunge into.

They say it's better to swim in posted, known swimming areas in the Columbia. And it you're going to be swimming elsewhere in the bigger river, avoid areas that look hazardous, rocky, or unsafe. AND wear a life jacket.