Michigan reminds swimmers to be safe this summer in the Great Lakes

Follow flag warning system when available

Holland State Park. (Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

Even the Great Lakes are prone to dangerous currents that can threaten experienced swimmers.

Weather patterns can create rip and structural currents, especially near the outlets of rivers, piers and breakwalls. Waves can create slippery surfaces and conditions strong enough to knock a person into the water.

Many state parks have designated swimming areas that offer extra safety measures. The areas can be identified with markers and/or buoys at a water depth likely less than five feet and a beach flag warning system.

Buoys and markers are usually put in place before Memorial Day weekend and removed at the end of the summer.

“Visitors are encouraged to take advantage of designated swim areas that offer the beach flag warning system and the visual cautions of buoys and markers, among other safety measures,” said DNR Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson. “Planning ahead and being prepared can help ensure a fun, safe holiday.”

Flag warning system

If your beach has a flag warning system, you should make sure to check the flag throughout the day because conditions can rapidly change.

Olson also said it’s important to never go swimming alone and always keep a close eye on children in the water.

  • Green flag: Enter the water, but be aware of changing conditions.
  • Yellow flag: Caution. Watch for dangerous currents and high waves.
  • Red flag: Stay on the beach. Do not enter the water. Do not swim.

Click here to view more safety tips from the state.

What to do if caught in rip current

Do not swim against a current. Remain calm and assess which way it is pulling you, then swim perpendicular to the current’s flow until you are out of it.

Then swim toward shore. If you become too tired, float on your back and signal someone on shore for help. The waves may eventually pull you back to shore if you just float.


  • Flip over onto your back and float.


  • Float to keep your head above water.
  • 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.
Escaping rip current graphic. (State of Michigan)

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Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.