Because of high water levels, and the forecast for a continued rise in the Delaware River, the National Park Service is mandating the use of properly-fitted and fastened U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets within Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.


And, if the river level rises above 15 feet at the Montague gauge, the river within the recreation area between Milford and Kittatinny Point will be closed, according to Kathleen Sandt, a spokeswoman for the park.


As of 9 a.m. today, the river level was at 9.43 feet at Montague. The level at which use of PDFs is mandatory is 8 feet.


A river level of 15 feet triggers the automatic closing of the waterway. As of 9 a.m., the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Center, a part of the National Weather Service, said the river level at Montague would crest at 12.6 feet about midnight and gradually recede during the day on Saturday.


However, the river level was not expected to drop to the 8-foot level until sometime next week.


The Bushkill Access was closed on Thursday because the service road, and access to the launch area, was expected to be inundated at some point today.


The NWS station at Mount Pocono, Pa., recorded 1.71 inches of rainfall in the previous 36 hours while a rain gauge on the New Jersey State Climatologist’s network in Walpack registered 1.1 inches of rain.


NWS Doppler radar estimated as much as 2 inches of rain fell on the area which drains into the upper Delaware River which will be reflected in the river’s rise into Saturday.


Higher river levels bring colder water temperatures, swifter currents, and increased sediment and debris. The water temperature is currently in the upper 40- to lower 50-degree range, Sandt said.


Cold water shock is a major factor in boating fatalities when water temperatures are less than 70 degrees, according to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.


Cold water shock causes an involuntary gasp reflex, which often results in the victim breathing in water. The shock also causes hyperventilation, breathlessness and a reduced ability to control breathing and to swim.


Those wearing a life jacket when exposed to cold water have potentially life-saving advantages such as insulation from the cold, buoyancy and reduced risk of aspiration of water.


"Wearing a properly fitted and fastened US Coast Guard-approved life jacket can save your life, but only if you wear it," said Sandt.


River levels can be monitored at: water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?fo=bgm&gage=mtgn4.


Updates and additional information on the park can be found at: t www.nps.gov/dewa, and at the Facebook page at: www.Facebook.com/DelWaterGapNPS.