Rafting and Kayaking Safety

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The appeal of river rafting and kayaking continues to grow among young adults, but these are not sports for amateurs. Calm waters can turn into raging rapids a half mile downstream.
If river rafting sounds interesting, sign up with friends for a professionally guided trip. You’ll discover how many precautions professionals must take to ensure the safety of their charges.

  • Be careful if you take off with friends.
  • Invest in good quality equipment. Inflatable rafts and toys made for pools are not suitable for moving water.
  • Wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD) and protective headgear.
  • If rafting in cold water or snow melt, rent wet suits to keep warm.
  • Know the ratings of the rivers in your area. Begin with the easier runs.
  • If possible, drive downstream along the river beforehand. You’ll know what to expect along the way.
  • Kayak or raft in groups of at least two craft, never alone.
  • Secure your gear so that you won’t become entangled if you capsize.
  • While underway, pull ashore and walk ahead to examine rapids and trouble spots. If you have any doubts, carry your craft downstream.
  • Stay clear of tree overhangs, log jams, debris and other obstacles that water flows through rather than around. The current could pin you against them.
  • Avoid water near dams. Their currents could trap you underwater.
  • Learn the language and nature of flowing water. The current is faster on the outside of a river bend. A “V” in the water pointing upstream indicates a rock; a downstream “V” indicates a gap between rocks.

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