Paddling Safety Tips & Hazards


Paddling Safety Tips

Hazards on the Water

Dams: Water going over a dam creates a back current, or undertow, that can pull a boat into the turbulence and capsize it. This hydraulic can often trap and hold a person or a boat. Hazards include the areas above and below the dam. Paddlers can spot dams by looking downriver for a horizontal line across the water.

Strainers: Trees are typical strainers that can trap and flood boats. Water flows through these obstructions, but solid objects do not. Strainers can pin victims underwater.

Current: Never underestimate the power of moving water. Boaters who are not sure that their boat or their ability is up to the prevailing conditions should stay off the water.

Cold water: Sudden immersion in cold water can lead to cardiac arrest or can cause a person to inhale water. If you fall into cold water, immediately cover your mouth and nose with your hands. Dress properly for the cold by wearing a hat, several layers of clothing and warm boots. Wool, pile and polypropylene provide warmth even when wet. Avoid cotton fabrics.

Hypothermia: Hypothermia is the lowering of the body’s core temperature. It begins with shivering. Judgment then becomes clouded and unconsciousness sets in. Death can occur if hypothermia is not treated. Remove a hypothermic person from the water and replace wet clothes with warm, dry clothing and/or a blanket. Do not massage the extremities or give the victim alcohol or caffeine.

Heat exhaustion/sunburn: When it is hot, wear sunglasses, a hat, and lightweight, light-colored clothing. Apply sunblock with a high SPF rating and drink plenty of fluids.

Other boaters: Be aware of other boaters. Keep a sharp lookout to prevent collisions and conflicts.