Plan your trip

Safety

  • Know the abilities of your group and don’t exceed these.
  • The river levels can change significantly based on rainfall amounts. Make sure you know if there are potential flood conditions on the river before you start your trip.
  • Drought conditions can also affect your ability to safely paddle. Low levels expose sunken snags and other submerged objects. Sand bars can also become problems. Evaluate the water levels and speed of the river before your trip.
  • Carry a deck compass, or GPS and map of the trail. Know where you are, where your access points are and how to get out in an emergency.
  • If you are camping, make sure you know the approved camping locations. Know if the camp sites are primitive or developed and pack the appropriate equipment.
  • Check the forecast but always be prepared for quick changes in the weather.

Communications

  • Notify friends or family of your paddle itinerary. Make sure they know who to contact if you don’t return on time. Write down where you intend to put in, take out and when you expect to return.
  • For emergencies, call 911, but assume the cell coverage will be inadequate.
  • If you are planning for an extended trip, consider a satellite phone, a VHF Marine radio, or a SPOT Personal satellite tracking system (can give outgoing message where cell phones do not work). Make sure everyone in your party knows how to operate the emergency equipment. Consider what power source to use for this equipment.
  • Carry a marine whistle, bell or horn within easy reach for low visibility conditions.
  • Carry flashlights and visual signal device or light sticks, or flare gun and flares.
  • Carry Waterproof GPS and extra batteries

Equipment

  • Wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (pfd) and keep it snug.
  • Assess your boat’s flotation needs. For flotation to work effectively it must fit snugly into the craft and be securely tied into place.
  • A lightweight paddle and spare paddle.
  • Dry bags & chart case for paddle guide & maps, cell phone, cameras, laptops, GPS, other important items.
  • First aid kit and personal medications.
  • Food and water—1 gal/person/day. Carry more than you think you need.
  • Gear specifically for overnight trips.
  • If using a kayak, take a sprayskirt/cockpit cover for rough and windy conditions. • Waterproof matches.

Safety Gear

  • Be prepared for bad weather.
  • Carry throw bags and other rescue gear. Make sure you can use them.
  • Carry a boat knife–when there are ropes and rigging, a knife is needed; this includes throw bags and throw ropes.
  • Pack a bilge pump and/or bailer so that you can reach it while paddling. Always carry some device that can get water OUT of the boat.
  • Self-rescue devices such as paddle float, slings, and tow ropes
  • Duct tape/small repair kit
  • Know how to re-enter your boat if you flip.
  • Be able to secure all gear to the boat (kayaks better to use the storage compartments) so nothing is lost if you flip.

Clothes

  • Always carry clothing to protect from wind and rain that can quickly compromise your safety and cause hypothermia, even in warm weather. Dress in layers. Temperature changes can occur rapidly even in summer
  • Know the warning signs of hypothermia—even in warm weather.
  • Carry insect repellent, sunscreen, hats, sunglasses (with UV eye protection) and a strap.
  • Proper footwear—especially important if you will be near any oyster beds or climbing on any structures with barnacles. Assume that you will need protection