Hazards to Avoid:
Fast Moving Water and High Water - Moving water has literally tons of pressure behind it. Water levels and conditions can change rapidly, especially downstream of a dam. Getting trapped in moving water or pinned to an obstruction can be deadly.
Low-Head Dams and Waterfalls – From upstream, dams look innocent enough, but don’t underestimate the power of its suction or current.
Low-head dams are especially deceiving, and in fact can be virtually invisible until you are too close to reroute.
Below dams and waterfalls, undertows and back currents (called hydraulics) can pull a paddler and his craft underwater, and sometimes pin them below the water’s surface indefinitely.
Low Head Dams are one of the most dangerous features encountered by river paddlers.
Image courtesy of the Hydro Users Group
Water Obstructions and Strainers – Avoid overhanging branches or downed trees, especially in moving water. These obstacles permit water to pass through while retaining solid objects. In moving water, these obstructions can trap boats or paddlers who have fallen overboard.
Limited Visibility – Don’t count on your eyes to spot dangers at night. And in fog, don’t expect other craft to see you, especially larger fast moving boats. When approaching a blind bend in fast moving water, get out and check it out. When in doubt, scout!
Cold Water – Be especially prepared for cold water. When the air temperature and water temperature add up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or less, wear a wet suit or a dry suit. Always carry a spare change of dry clothes in a watertight bag when boating in cold water. Falls overboard in cold water (or even exposure to cold air for a period of time) can lead to a deadly consequence called hypothermia. The most typical symptoms of hypothermia in general order of onset that you must assess and treat:
- Impaired judgment
- Loss of dexterity
- Slurred speech
- Inward behavior
- Shivering stops
- Muscle rigidity