A kayaker cools off by practicing eskimo rolls in the Potomac River with his freestyle kayak.
Canoeing, kayaking, and tubing are all popular summer pastimes. But it is important to keep safety first when going out to enjoy time at the river. Keep the following tips in mind when heading out with paddle in hand to enjoy some fun in the sun.
Be sure that someone not going on the trip is aware of what rivers and trails will be traversed while out. Cellphones can call for help in case of an emergency. But often cellphone service is inconsistent when outside of city limits. It is best that someone knows where a trip is going and when they can expect travelers back home.
Keeping a physical map rather than relying on Google Maps to get around the river is also recommended by river safety advocacy group Friends of the River. Maneuvering a paddle or board while holding an electronic device can be difficult, and a cell phone can be destroyed if submerged in water. Also be sure to purchase a case that can protect cellphones if they come into contact with water, as they likely are while traveling in the kayak or raft.
Matthew Knott is the CEO of River Riders, a guide service that has shown groups the path through white water rafting expeditions for 40 years. Knott has been with River Riders since 1994, and knows important rules for water travel that are often forgotten about.
“Weather is often overlooked by kayakers or rafters,” Knott says. “Looking at what a day is going to look like a week before the trip is not being careful. Check the weather for where you’re going multiple times before the trip.”
Also remember to never traverse waters alone. Water currents can be unpredictable and having another person to keep an eye on the state of the water is safer for all who are traveling on the water. A first aid kit is also important to keep on person while kayaking, canoeing, or tubing. Infection can come from a cut being exposed, so it is important to disinfect and bandage wounds as soon as they are seen.
Know where park ranger stations or patrol areas are if traveling down a body of water that goes through a National Park. Check for major checkpoints that are near the body or water such as buildings or large natural features by the water. Keep a lookout for what can help keep bearings while going downstream, and use that to make an experience just as safe as it is fun and memorable.