Planning for a safe river trip begins well before you get on the water and does not end until you return home. By following the steps and information listed below, you will better understand how to safely and comfortably enjoy the river.
It's smart to wear a life jacket-while boating, tubing, fishing, wading, or swimming. The National Park Service recommends that you always wear it when you're on or in the water. By law, all children 12 and under must wear a life jacket while on the river in any vessel, including inner tubes. Every person in a boat or using an inner tube must have a life jacket within reach, not tied to the vessel. Each person's life jacket must be the proper size and in good condition. Moving water can be deceptive and potentially treacherous, even for non-paddlers.
Even though a river appears calm in some areas, DO NOT be misled! Moving water must be respected. Always be aware of the current river conditions (see the USGS Water Watch tool below).
...even when swimming. Most drownings occur when boaters stop and swim. Never swim alone!
Do not attempt to swim or wade across the river. Rivers have strong currents and steep drop-offs. Swimming becomes more difficult with increased current and water depth. Even the strongest of swimmers should be extremely cautious!
Stop and scout rapids to pick the best channel.
Kneel while going through rapids, you will be less likely to capsize.
Save people first! Retrieve boats and equipment only if it can be done safely.
...by wearing a hat and light clothing and by using sunscreen with a high rating.
Bring plenty of water. Do not drink river or stream water, even clean water can have natural bacteria.
Alcohol can enhance heat-related illnesses and slow your response in an emergency. Laws on underage drinking, possession and use of illegal drugs, disorderly conduct and littering are strictly enforced.
Bring a spare paddle, a throw line, and a first aid kit.
Have rain gear. To protect against hypothermia, have clothing made of wool, polypropylene, high-performance fleece, or a wet suit. Immersion hypothermia is the numbing effect that cold water has on the body. Hypothermia is possible whenever the water temperature falls below 70?. Loss of body heat is 25 times greater in cold water than in air of the same temperature.
Arrange drop off and pick up points before you leave. Leave emergency phone numbers and vehicle description and tag numbers with someone who can report that you are overdue.
...to keep your weight low. This helps avoid capsizing. In rapids, aim for the downstream "V".
Hold onto your paddle, not the boat.
Avoid these large, "V"-shaped wooden and rock traps, usually constructed by late summer.
You may encounter a variety of river users on your trip. Please respect their rights and act responsibly and ethically.
Courtesy of The National Park Service