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Know Before you Go: Safety

In Preparation for Your Trip | On the River

Just because you don't see whitewater, don't be fooled.  Idaho rivers are cold, deep, fast-flowing rivers, with eddies, whirlpools, and in-channel hazards that can trap or toss around a raft or boat.  The river is powerful and must be respected. Please read the following to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable experience on Idaho's beautiful rivers.

In Preparation for Your Trip

  • Learn about regulations for floating and find out if you need a permit. Permitting is handled differently for each river, so please visit the river pages for more details.
  • Find if you need to self-register your party.
  • Tell friends or family your itinerary, launch and take-out locations, identification of vehicles and where vehicles will be left.
  • Know the river, or boat with an experienced leader. Learn as much as possible about the river you plan to float, including the difficulty, predicted flows, weather forecast and road conditions. Hazards and the difficulty of the river change depending on the water level. Some portions of these rivers are recommended only for the most experienced boaters. 
  • Check your boat and other equipment in advance and make necessary repairs or replacements. Carry patching equipment for emergency boat repairs.
  • Rafting parties should carry one extra personal floatation device (PFD) per raft and kayak parties should carry at least one extra per party. Oregon, Idaho and Nevada state laws require that you carry a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD) for each person in the party.
  • Each raft should be equipped with long bow and stern lines. 
  • Carry a spare ore, paddle, first-aid kit, repair kit with pump (for rafts), extra life jacket, and warm clothing.
  • Assume water will not be available at camp areas.

On the River

  • Dress for success by wearing your life jacket at all times. Remember that personal flotation devices work only when you have them on.
  • Be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions. Even hot, sunny days can turn cool and rainy, creating hypothermia conditions.
  • When in Doubt, Scout: Most segments of these rivers have rapids or other hazards that can’t be seen until you are on top of them. There are also several portages. If you are unsure of what is ahead, pull over to the shore and take a look from the bank. 
  • Watch Your Step - Many Accidents Happen on Shore: Many river accidents (slips, trips and falls) happen within 10 feet of shore. Choose hiking boots or river sandals that provide good traction on wet rocks and wear your life jacket can help cushion a fall.
  • Rattlesnakes, insects and poison ivy can be found around Idaho. Learn how to avoid them and how to treat the symptoms of an encounter. Poison Ivy is a shrubby, non-twining plant that grows in sunny and shady areas. Contact with any portion of the plant may cause a severe rash. From late spring through fall the plant can be recognized by the broad leaves arranged in groups of 3 or 5 off the same stem. It appears as numerous, silvery-gray, rounded stems growing up to 3 feet tall. With a little care, this plant can be easily recognized and avoided.
  • If necessary to use water from the river; boil, filter or chemically treat all drinking, cooking and dish-washing water.
  • Boaters should carry an attention-getting device (ie. air horn, whistle, or other loud device) in case you get in trouble.  You must also have a light on-board if you plan to float after dark.
  • If you fall overboard, float on your back with your feet pointed downstream. Stay on the upstream side of the boat.
  • Your camp is your home on a river trip, so be cautious when handling sharp knives and hot stoves.

Lower Salmon River

Payette River kayaking