Canoe Safety

Do's & Dont's

Safety is often related to skills and experience. One can tell an experienced canoeist just by talking with him or her. The conversation is always interspersed with comments about good equipment, scouting a rapid they almost ran, where’s a good place to camp for the night, which maps or trail guides give the most up-to-date information.

Below is a basic list of do’s and don’ts for safe and enjoyable canoeing. It is by no means complete nor is it a substitute for experience, training, and good common sense.

Enter Low — The lower your center of gravity, the more stable your canoe becomes. When you enter, exit, or change positions, always stay low and proceed with one hand on each gunwale.

Don't Stand Up in Your Canoe -- Stay Low! Kneeling in your canoe offers more stability

Caught in a Squall? — Again, the lower the center of gravity, the greater the stability. In a squall, lie down in the bottom of your canoe.  We canoe in the rain, but if lightning strikes we get to the shore.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFD) — These are not to sit or kneel on. They are to be worn. Law requires that a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device be available for each occupant in your canoe.   Paddlers are required to wear their lifejackets when on the water.

Don't Overload -- Each model has a maximum load capacity rating in pounds for persons, gear, and motor.  Look for the tag on the inside of your canoe. Not overloading your canoe is a start, but it is not the final assurance of safety.  For example, two adults and four children may be well within maximum load limit, but is not safe.

Most accidents take place getting into the boat and getting out of the boat.  Maintain at least three points of contact with the boat at all times.

Should You Capsize or Swamp -- In open water such as lakes or very slowly moving water, stay with your canoe. Even full of water it will help support you and your crew. 

Sweepers and Strainers are low hanging trees or branches. They are often floating but held in place -- avoid them.

Avoid structures in the water.

Respect anglers and other boaters.  Paddle toward the shore opposite of their lines and pass by quietly.

Never get ahead of the assigned lead boat or behind the assigned sweep boat.

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