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River Safety Tips


 Photo of two kayakers scouting "Clavey" rapids from the bank of the Tuolumne RiverBLM River Ranger "throw bagging" a safety line to a person swimming in the river  BLM River Ranger giving a safety talk to a group of rafters and kayakers on the river

  1. Tell someone where you are going, when you expect to return, and where to call if you don't.
  2. Be sure your white water skills and experience are equal to the river and the conditions you are going to run. NEVER BOAT ALONE.
  3. Wear a Coast Guard approved type III - V, properly adjusted lifejacket at all times when you are on or near the river.
  4. Know your limits.  Know how to self rescue on white water rivers. Know when and how to swim for an eddy.
  5. Reduce injuries by wearing protective foot wear and proper clothing designed for river running.
  6. Helmets are a must for Kayakers and canoeists at all times. Rafters should wear helmets in Class IV and above water.
  7. Be prepared for extremes in weather, especially cold. Know about the dangers of hypothermia and how to deal with it.  When air and water temperature add up to 120 degrees or less, hyperthermia is a high risk.
  8. Wear a wet suit and booties in spring to early summer and always in Class V water. Know early signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration in hot weather. Remember certain medications can complicate these types of environmental injuries.
  9. Know how to recognize and react to river hazards such as holes, wrap rocks, undercut boulders and walls, rock sieves, and horizon lines across the river.
  10. Never run a rapid unless you can see a clear path through it. Watch out for new snags after winter and spring floods.
  11. Carry a first aid kit and know how to use it. Learn or review medical aid responsibilities and CPR. Avoid rattlesnakes and poison oak, but know how to deal with emergencies if someone is unlucky.
  12. When in doubt, stop and scout. If you are still in doubt? Portage.
  13. Remote rivers through isolated wilderness should be approacehed with caution, since aid is difficult or impossible to obtain in case of an accident.

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