Paddling in High Water

ekThe ram­pant April show­ers have last­ed into May, leav­ing many rivers and recre­ation­al pad­dling areas closed due to high water. When the rains come, not only does your lawn flood, so do many rivers and creeks and that can cre­ate dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions for pad­dlers and bystanders alike. Before pad­dling, always check reg­u­la­tions in your area to make sure the con­di­tions of the water are safe.

Lis­ten to the River
You don’t have to be a hip­pie to lis­ten to the riv­er. With faster water comes less sta­bil­i­ty. If it’s been rain­ing and/or flood­ing, there will also be debris like logs, leaves, sticks, and whole trees. Trees and branch­es, known as “strain­ers” will leave you in big trou­ble so before drop­ping in, look around and see if these are going to be an issue.

wsDon’t Go Alone
You would­n’t go back-coun­try ski­ing by your­self now would you? Pad­dling with only the chirp of the birds and the swish of the pad­dle through the water is always nice, but if in high water chan­nels, don’t go alone. Emer­gen­cies on the water hap­pen often and recep­tion on the riv­er is about as pre­dictable as the riv­er itself. If you’re absolute­ly dead set on pad­dling high water, at least let some­one know where you will be drop­ping in and tak­ing out.

Don’t Flip
Flip­ping is fine when there isn’t poten­tial­ly sharp/large debris in the water. Save your amaz­ing Eski­mo roll and prac­tice-wet exits for a calmer day. Plus you won’t have to be pick­ing lit­tle piece of tree bark and sticks from out of your kayak. If you know there’s debris in the water, save your tricks for anoth­er day.

jnSafe­ty First
Before leav­ing for your pad­dle trip, be sure to pack an emer­gency dry bag. In case tragedy may strike, at least you will be pre­pared. An extra set of dry clothes is some­thing you should always take on a trip. Also, an emer­gency pon­cho, water, a whis­tle, solar blan­ket, match­es or a lighter, and emer­gency food are always great to have. If your kayak has enough com­part­ments, throw in a small camp stove. Even bet­ter, learn how to make a stove out of an alu­minum can.

Don’t Get Caught
Many states have laws and reg­u­la­tions against pad­dling on high water marked rivers and creeks. Get­ting caught break­ing those reg­u­la­tions can result in a hefty fine. Obvi­ous­ly, it’s bet­ter to abide by the law and not pad­dle when con­di­tions have been deemed unsafe. Just remem­ber that the law enforce­ment offi­cials are try­ing to keep you alive, not to damper on your fun. If it’s absolute­ly nec­es­sary for you to pad­dle that day, remem­ber to be safe. Just always keep in mind, “When in doubt, stay out.”