Safety & Weather Tips

Canoeing & Kayaking
River levels can change drastically depending on rainfall, making passage and maneuverability more difficult.  As with all water activities, always wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device.




Before You Start:
Be honest with yourself when evaluating your skills (and the skills of others in your party).  You will have a safer and more enjoyable trip if you choose sections of the river that match your ability.

Check on current water levels before embarking on your trip.  The difficulty level of certain sections of river can change dramatically with changes in water level.  Gentle stretches can become dangerous with high water levels.  At extremely low levels, you may find yourself paddling through puddles, dragging the canoe over rocks or portaging.

Know your physical ability, swimming skills and paddling skills.  If you are uncertain about how much you can do, start with a short trip.

Take time to find out which lands along the river belong to private landowners.  Private property may be marked with signs or purple paint.

On the River:

Wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket at all times.  Even gentle stretches of water can have wicked undercurrents.  Everyone, even good swimmers need to wear a life jacket.

Never boat alone.

Scout rapids and make rescue plans if needed.  Be aware that on some sections of the river land access may be difficult and help is far away.

Learn basic water rescue techniques and first aid.  Learn to recognize the symptoms and treatment for hypothermia.

Know your limits; do not attempt a section of river beyond your skill level.

Pay attention to weather and water conditions.  If the water temperature and the air temperature combined total is 100 degrees or less, wear protective clothing.

If you capsize, hold on to your craft and get immediately to the upstream side.  Float on your back, with your feet together and keep your feet pointed downstream.  If you go over a ledge or drop tuck into a ball.  Release your craft only if it improves your safety.  Stay upstream away from the boat.

Carry the proper equipment including dry clothing and a first aid kit.  Store all gear in a secure watertight container.

Canoe Safety Tips:
Before you go canoeing this summer, there are some important things you should know to keep yourself safe.  Canoeing is a lot of fun, but it you don’t know the dangers, you could get into trouble on the water.  Here are some tips for keeping dry and steering clear of danger:

To get into your canoe have someone hold the canoe steady – you don’t want to tip the canoe before you even get out on the water!

Crouch low – keep your knees bent and grab the sides of the canoe for balance as you walk to your seat.

Always walk along the center – keeping your feet on the centerline will help keep the canoe from rocking.

Stay low – do not stand up or walk in your canoe when you are away from the shore.

Always wear your life jacket – you never know when you might fall out or tip over unexpectedly.

Avoid sudden or jerky movements – rocking from side to side could cause the canoe to tip over.

Be aware of currents in the water – you don’t want to end up floating farther downstream than you planned.  If the current starts to pull you along faster or you see lots of rocks in the water ahead of you paddle away from them or paddle towards the shore.

Always sit on the seats or in the center of the canoe – sitting on the side of a canoe will cause it to tip over.

Stay away from low hanging trees and branches near the shore.

Do not canoe in bad weather.  Be aware the weather is constantly changing – a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoons is not uncommon.  Be careful!

Avoid letting big waves hit the side of your canoe – always try to keep your canoe at a right angle to the waves.  Otherwise, the wave might push your canoe over.

If your canoe tips over:
Don’t panic.

Stay with your canoe.

Paddle or push your canoe to shore – with the help of the other person in your canoe, you can get out in shallow water and flip the canoe to dump out the water and climb in.  Your canoe will float even if its full of water until you can get to shore to empty it.

Always bring along extra clothing in a waterproof container – you want to be prepared in case your canoe tips or the weather changes.

Be sure to bring the proper equipment:
Sun Protection – hats, sunscreen, long sleeves & pants

First Aid Kit

Plenty of Food & Water

Life Vests – there must be a life vest in the boat for each person floating & we encourage you to wear it at all times.

Map – be sure you know where you are so you do not get lost.  

Tie all your equipment to the canoe – put equipment into a waterproof bag to keep it dry and tie it to one of the center beams in the canoe so that you don’t lose everything if your canoe tips over. 

Do not litter – carry out everything you bring in!

Re-printed with the permission of Daniel Boone National Forest


USDA Forest Service Lightning Safety Tips

                       Keep in mind that weather is unpredictable and thunderstorms are possible at any time.

High on the list of activities where people are injured by lightning are mountain hiking, climbing, camping, fishing, boating, and golfing.

Many vacationers are unaware of the measures they can take to lower their risk of being struck. They should educate themselves about lightning strikes. They should be near safe shelter and try to avoid high terrain, golf courses, and bodies of water during high lightning activity.

If you are caught above the tree line when a storm approaches, descend quickly. Avoid isolated trees.

It is better to run into a forest.


Electric storms can also develop in the middle of the night. To lower your odds, don't pitch your tent near the tallest trees in the vicinity.


Hikers, golfers, and others should run into a forest if a shelter or car is not nearby.

Drop metal objects like golf clubs, tennis rackets, umbrellas, and packs with internal or external metal frames.

Get off bicycles, motorcycles, horses, and golf carts. Metal bleachers at sports events, metal fences, and utility poles are also to be avoided.

If you are caught in an open field, seek a low spot. Crouch with your feet together and head low.

If Someone Is Struck - People who have been hit by lightning carry no electric charge and can be safely tended to. Also, victims who appear dead can often be revived. If the person is not breathing, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. But if a pulse is absent as well and you know cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), begin CPR. Stay with the victim until help arrives.

Don't sit or lie down, because these positions provide much more contact with the ground, providing a wider path for lightning to follow. If you are with a group and the threat of lightning is high, spread out at least 15 feet apart to minimize the chance of everybody getting hit (see "If Someone Is Struck").

Don't return to an open area too soon. People have been struck by lightning near the end of a storm, which is still a dangerous time.

Swimmers, anglers, and boaters should get off lakes or rivers and seek shelter when storms approach. Drop any fishing rods. Boaters who cannot get off the water before the storm hits should crouch low. Once on land, get at least 100 yards away from shore.

Remember: This information is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have a health-related concern, consult a physician. Also, the tips discussed here may lower injury risk, but the unpredictability of lightning affords no guarantees.