Safety on the Rivers

Trip Planning Tips


  • Check USGS river gages, weather forecasts, and rain in upstream areas to avoid hazardous river levels. Access the Dan River Basin Association online resource to view gages.
  • Know your route and locations of dams and other hazards; steer clear of strainers such as downed trees. Use this guide to know where to take off the river in case of an emergency. File a float plan before you go.
  • Plan to paddle with others. Know the limitations of the group and yourself.
  • Hypothermia contributes to most boating deaths. Wear a wetsuit or drysuit if air and water temperatures combined total less than 120 degrees.
  • Dress in synthetic layers that will insulate when wet; carry extra layers in a dry bag.

On the Water


  • Always wear your life jacket when on the water. A type III PFD is recommended for paddling.
  • Carry a spare paddle and whistle; know and use paddle and whistle signals.
  • When entering or exiting a canoe use three points of contact with the boat and land using hands and feet.
  • Use caution when launching or landing in muddy or rocky areas.
  • When paddling in wind, stay close to the shore in the lee of the wind.
  • If you capsize, stay calm. Hold onto boat and paddle and move to shallow water.
  • To prevent foot entrapment, do not attempt to stand up in moving water deeper than knee deep. In flowing water, float on back and keep feet downstream.
For additional safety information, please visit the American Canoe Association online resource.

Leave No Trace & Wildlife Ethics


  • Leave the river and shoreline cleaner than you find them.
  • Respect private property.
  • Respect the rights of anglers.
  • Leave rocks and plants as you find them.
  • Carry out your trash.
  • Respect wildlife; stay clear of nests, dens, and rookeries.
  • Human food is unhealthy for wildlife. Please do not share your food with animals.
  • Camp on existing sites and avoid trampling plants.
  • Use fire rings; make sure fires are out and cold before leaving.