River Safety Tips

Safety Tips for Paddling

Paddling is a great way to experience nature and get exercise. There are several important things that you must know before you get out on the water. Safety is everyone's responsibility and should not be taken lightly. Accidents can happen on any type of water. It is important to review safety guidelines before paddling and to learn the appropriate techniques need to safely navigate the water.

Here are some safety guidelines to remember while you are on the water.

  1. If it is your first time on the water, take an on-water course or travel with an experienced person that has navigated that part of the river before.
  2. Wear your life jacket! It's always possible to capsize in any water condition. Learn how wearing your life jacket can save your life here.
  3. Before you leave, make sure you know where you are going. It is also a good idea to tell a responsible person about your plans of where you will be and when you expect to return.
  4. Check the weather forecast before you leave for your destination so that you can pack the proper equipment.
  5. Before you leave your vehicle, make sure all valuables are out of sight and make sure your lock your doors.
  6. If possible, park in a well-lit, heavy traveled area.
  7. Carry identification that includes your name, phone number, pertinent medical information, and emergency contact information in a waterproof bag. You can also store your cell phone and camera in the bag as well.
  8. Know the water conditions. Sometimes the river will be high, low, or a dam may be generating. This makes the water conditions very different and it is important to know what to expect.
  9. Know the rules to navigating the water. Click here to find out what you need to know while on waterways.
  10. Beware of Strainers. Strainers are fallen trees; bridge pilings, undercut rocks or anything else that allows the current to flow through it while holding you. Strainers are deadly!
  11. Never go boating or tubing while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  12. If in doubt, get out and scout
  13. Know your paddling abilities and plan your outings accordingly
  14. Dress appropriately for weather conditions. Carry extra clothes in a dry bag in case you flip and go for a swim. Hypothermia can be deadly
  15. Never float or paddle over low-head dams, avoid fallen trees and other in-stream obstructions.
  16. Do not stand up in a canoe or kayak, and avoid weight shifts that may cause capsize.
  17. Carry a supply of food and water adequate for your trip length.
  18. Avoid weather or water conditions beyond your skill level.
  19. Learn rescue skills necessary to assist others.
  20. Plan for emergencies, carry basic first aid.
  21. Inform others of your trip plan.
  22. Leave No Trace and Wildlife Ethics
  23. Leave the river and shoreline cleaner than you find them.
  24. Leave rocks and plants as you find them.
  25. Carry out your trash.
  26. Respect wildlife; stay clear of nests, dens, and rookeries. Human food is unhealthy for wildlife. Please do not share your food with animals.
  27. Click here for a list of helpful safety tips for the next time you go on the water.
  28. Make sure you bring drinking water and stay hydrated!
  29. Know Your Limits! Make sure you know what you can endure before you leave shore.
  30. Click here view the River Paddler's Guide to Rescue.
  31. To learn more useful tips when scheduling your next trip, click here

In normal, moderate conditions, any moving water can capsize a canoe or kayak that accidentally leans upstream, something that happens easily and often without warning. The faster and more turbulent the water, the more quickly this can happen. In addition, most recreational streams contain obstacles and in flood conditions many more are washed in. These are generally difficult to deal with when the water is running high and fast.

Disclaimer: This information is used entirely at the reader's discretion, and is made available on the expressed condition that no liability, expressed or implied, is accepted by the author or publisher or any of its associates, employees, branches or subsidiaries for the accuracy, content or use thereof. River channels are dynamic features and thus change frequently. The boater must be aware that hazards exist and be wary of them. Paddling poses significant potential hazards including risk of injury or death, and each person participating in this activity needs to understand the risks involved, obtain the necessary training and take all the needed precautions. This guide provides general information on the topic of paddling on the Smith River. By providing this information, we do not assume any liability for the use of this information.


River Etiquette

  1. Obey all rules and regulations. Respect private property.
  2. Be considerate of others. Give fisherman a wide berth.
  3. Avoid taking disposable containers; take it in, take it out.
  4. Please do not litter. Do your part to keep the river clean
  5. So the next person can have the same experience.