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Berrien County Parks and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources are urging hikers and tourists to use caution before entering the Great Lakes.

The large, powerful water systems are prone to dangerous currents that can threaten even the most experienced swimmers. High waves, structural currents and other dangerous waves can occur along beaches and near river outlets here in southwestern Michigan.

Genevieve Graves of Silver Beach County Park talked about the importance of taking precautions before getting in the water.

“TThe time between our waves is actually shorter,” Graves said. “So if you get caught out there, you have less time to breathe between waves, and it’s just that a lot of people don’t think about that and don’t think about how dangerous it is closer to the peers and things like that. So education is super important to us. And just providing lifeguards here at Silver Beach is incredibly important to us in ensuring that all of our visitors are safe.”

Before entering the water, tourists should look for warning flags, which let them know if the water conditions are safe. Graves explained that there are three different flags at Silver Beach: green, yellow and red, with red being the most dangerous. If there is a red flag, signs will be placed everywhere, including at the entrance and on social media.

The green flag means that there is a low risk of swimming, that no dangerous waves and currents are expected and that it is okay to swim, but of course be careful. Then the next one is yellow, which poses a moderate swimming risk, and that means breaking waves and currents are expected, so obviously be careful. And then red flags mean the swimming risk is high, so breaking waves and currents are bad, and swimming is not allowed.”

Graves also noted that visitors should be aware of the weather for that day to be safe and prepared. There are lifeguards on duty at all times who are happy to answer any questions about the water and beach conditions for the day.