it would be so wonderful to go through a spring and summer without any of those terrible stories of drownings in the Potomac River. But the reports never quit -- and they are always wrenching: people out having fun, climbing those harmless-looking rocks, rafting in what seem to be calm waters, wading in or "just taking a little dip."
The deception is deadly. Good swimmers? Forget it. All right in a canoe? Experts can tell you about places where the water can suck in a canoe as easily as it can pull under a strong, experienced swimmer. The most dangerous spots? Please take note, and tell your friends:
Little Falls Dam, known not at all affectionately as "the drowning machine," where a dreaded hydraulic roller effect has been a regular killer. The Army Corps of Engineers and the District of Columbia have announced a project to correct this effect, but this will never be a safe area.
Great Falls. Only the other day, a 19-year-old high school junior was fishing in these waters, slipped, fell in and drowned.
Carderock. This, too, is along the 11-mile stretch of white water from Great Falls to Chain Bridge.
The river near the Old Angler's Inn, also part of this stretch -- in which 14 people drowned last year.
Listen to Joan Anzelmo, site manager at Great Falls Park on the Virginia side: "This river is unforgiving. You have to respect the power. It has strong currents and really powerful undertows."
Yes, there are signs up; and the penalties for entering the water -- up to a $500 fine and six months in jail -- are posted. In addition, we suggest, as we did last year, that maybe an up-to-date list of names, ages and home towns of all who have drowned in the Potomac should be posted all along that 11-mile stretch. Perhaps, too, sponsors can be found to send an overhead helicopter message several times each weekend day, warning of what is both illegal and dangerous.
No matter what, there will always be some who insist on defying all warnings, as well as the odds. And then the stories . . .