Drowning consistently ranks among the top causes of accidental death for children, according to a news release from the Minnesota Department of Health. And most boating deaths occur because people are not wearing life jackets. That’s why Essentia Health has teamed up with Safe Kids of Northeastern Minnesota to loan life jackets at six popular boat launches in Carlton and St. Louis counties.

Each “Flotation Station” holds 20 life jackets in adult and children's sizes that can be borrowed free of charge for a day or weekend. Anyone can borrow a life jacket while boating, paddling or swimming and then simply return it to the loaner station.

The life jackets can be found at boat launches at Dunlap Island in Cloquet, Fish Lake Dam, Island Lake's Abbott Road landing, Island Lake's Hideaway landing, the Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center and the Big Lake landing. The landings were chosen because they are popular areas and because the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources issues a high number of life jacket violations there.

Minnesota law requires all children under age 10 to wear a life jacket on any boat or watercraft that’s not docked. It also requires one U.S. Coast Guard-approved, properly sized and easily accessible life jacket for each person on a boat. Life jackets also are recommended for children who are on docks or shorelines.