DDRC Blog, The latest Club News, Tips, Instruction, Gear Reviews. To start, posting will be limited to Board Members and Trip Leaders, with all members available to comment. We will expand that as we see how it goes.
I have been organizing and leading river trips for over 20 years now and I have made some tactical errors in my day and I have learned a lot in the process. I hear stories of trips that occur (no DDRC ones, thank goodness) that I just have to wonder how no one was injured or worse.
When you dig deeper into the story there are always tell tale signs that should have been really apparent to whoever was in charge that are simple overlooked. This is what I call knowing "When to Say When" and stopping a potentially disastrous trip before it starts.
1. Where is your destination and what do you know about it?
Have you ever been on this reach before? How reliable is your information about access, camping areas and river conditions? River info that is more than a year or two old may no longer be valid. If you don't know the river personally, you should seek advice from someone who does.
Have you studied the river level history and inquired as to what constitutes too much or too little flow? Too much and your camping areas may be submerged, too low and you can find yourself dragging down the river or worse having to climb down dry rapids and drops.
Do you have a good quality map of the river. Did you look at it on Google Earth and mark potential campsites or hazards on your GPS. When I say GPS , I mean a real GPS, not your phone. (more on this later).
Have you mapped out a daily plan that allows at least two hours daylight AFTER you reach camp?
2. Who is coming with you.
Are you and those in your group physically able to handle the physical exertion required to make your daily distance and any other obstacles that might be encountered.
Does your group have the appropriate gear for the weather and water conditions? For example if you are on mostly white water river camping out of a sit in kayak, so all of your worldly possessions for the next several days are in there, do you have a decent spray skirt? If its going to be raining and cold, do you have the right outer wear.
If you trip is going to be out in the boonies where there is no cell service, do you have a REAL GPS (properly loaded), a weather radio, a compass and actual maps? Who in your group can use any of these devices? A GPS with Satellite capabilities, is a good thing, but not a show stopper.
Do you have proper safety gear, throw bags, rescue rope, web slings , pulleys and carabiners? Do you know how to use them? Is there a properly stocked first aid kit? A basic boat repair kit?
Who is your check in person who knows where you are going and your float plan and when you supposed to launch and land? Does that person have all the necessary emergency number if you miss your check in?
3. If you do not have good answers to ANY of the above. Say "When" and stop right there.
4. If you arrive at your destination and any member of your group does not have the right gear. Either leave them on the bank or say "When"
5. If the weather has not cooperated and the river is too high or too low and looks to be above the ability of anyone in your group, say "When"
6. If you even for a minute consider doing the trip anyway because you took the time off and you drove all the way out there, Don't.
We have been very fortunate over the years not to have had any serious incidents, but though things have gone a little sideways at times, we have been able to effect rescues, get people help and overall keep people safe. If you apply these simple rules, you will too
Five Knots Every Canoeist and Kayaker Should KnowBy Dale Harris
Know the Ropes:
Use quality ropes, if a rope has a relatively low cost it usually means low quality - avoid it. Check and make sure the working load meets your intended usage. It’s best to have a higher working load than required.
Some of the uses of ropes for canoeing and kayaking are:
Always make sure the ends of the rope, often referred to and the “bitter end”, are dressed, or wrapped and taped. A ragged end on a rope is hard to work with. There several ways to secure the bitter ends. Melt the ends with a match or lighter, you can also use heat shrink tubing to cover the ends, tape rolled tightly around the ends works very well and whipping is a time honored way of securing the bitter ends but this take some time to do it right.
The next five pages actually cover the 5 basic knots. There hundreds of knots, books on knots and recommendations on which knots are the most important or most used. So the 5 knots I use mostly are the Bowline, figure 8 loop, 2 half hitches, the taunt line hitch and the simple truckers hitch.
The credit for these knot instructions go to NetKnots.com. Click on the links to see the knots.
Figure 8 Loop
Two Half Hitches
Taunt Line Hitch
Simple Truckers Hitch
I want to review what it takes to set up a trip on a river with very little published information available on it. Most place we go do have credible maps, descriptions or reviews, but many do not. For the purpose of this exercise, pretend that we have never done the Little River One Night trip. Let’s go back in time and see what we did to get this trip on the calendar. Way back to 2003.
First thing is you have to determine what facts are known.
Given the distance was doable in a single day’s paddle. We did a scouting run in the fall when the water was low. How did we know that? Keep reading.
On the scouting run, we marked all possible camping spots and any other points of interest. Many of these had almost no elevation above the river , so in order to be able to safely run an overnight trip we had to determine minimum and maximum water levels.
This particular reach of the Little River has a lot of factors that determine its level on a given day.
Thanks to all this the river is subject to wildly changing level at times, like the early spring and in the summer. We needed to access resources that could provide good guides to the levels.
Since there are not a lot of upstream gauges on the Upper Mountain Fork, Pine Creek or any of the other creeks that feed the watershed, we went with the next best thing. The USACE controls the Pine Creek and Broken Bow dams and they usually have great web pages associated with their dams. Take a look at them.
Pine Creek Dam
Broken Bow Dam
They show at a glance how much water is coming in from the feeder creeks and rivers, how much is going out by way of controlled release or hydro generation and the level of water behind the dam. Note that as a rule if the level is between the top of the conservation pool and the top of the flood pool, you have a good chance that that water will be released ASAP on a flood control dam, but depending on the weather a hydro dam may hang on to some for power generation. Either way you have to be aware that a release could be imminent.
There are a few river gauges below the dams that are important to watch.
Lower Mountain Fork at Eagletown
Little River near Idabel, Ok
Little River near Horation, Ar
The combined volume from the first two contribute to the level of the Little River at Horatio. A few things to note about this.
Southwestern Power Administration
Advanced Hydrological pages
Planning the trip
You have all the info you need to plan the trip now. You just have to put the pieces together.
All of this is transferable to any trip you are planning, but I picked this particular section because it has just about every piece of info you can think of for a river. You might not have all of these for every river, but learning how to use and interpret them could be a lifesaver.
Earl just got back from a weekend with the Arkansas Canoe Club and he wanted to pass along a very informative document. If you want a glimpse into what trip leaders do (or should be) in preparation for a trip, this is an excellent example. Once we start having regular meetings again, we will be reviewing our older presentations that cover a lot of this material add we will be adding to it as we go along.
Also, when we consider the assignment of experience levels, all the factors below figure in to that determination. How many of the first 20 items on this list have happened to you? How many times have you said to yourself, we don't need (fill in the blank) its just a short day trip or a flat water paddle?
Biggest Mistakes People Make on the River
(Or How Not to Die on the River)
Arkansas Canoe Club - Rendezvous
What are the Biggest Mistakes People Make on the River? Here are Some Ideas:
1. Not Wearing a Life Vest
2. Not Cancelling a Trip When Conditions are Bad (Commitment Bias)
3. Not Knowing Current Conditions (Rising or High Water; New Hazards)
4. Not Knowing Current Weather Forecast or Scheduled Dam Release
5. Letting the Wrong Person Organize and Lead the Trip (Competency Bias)
6. Letting the Wrong (Unskilled or Nororiously Poorly Prepared) Boater Join the Group (Competency Bias)
7. Underestimating the Risk of Class 1 Streams and Flatwater
8. Not Allowing Adequate Time for Float (Getting Mileage Wrong; Underestimating Shuttle and Mishaps)
9. Not Knowing How to Recover When You Swim (Instincts Can Be Wrong)
10. Not Knowing What is Around the Bend (Wrong Leader; Failure to Scout)
11. Not Knowing What to Do When You Hit an Obstacle in the River (Strainers)
12. Not Having Proper Gear (Cold Water Clothing; Boat Floatation)
13. Improperly Securing Gear to Your Boat (Floatation; Dry Bags)
14. Not Recognizing the Take-Out
15. Not Properly Maintaining Gear (Leaky Dry Bags)
16. Not Having Rescue Gear (1st Aid; Dry Blanket; Fire Starter; Throw Rope; Knife)
17. Forgetting an Essential Piece of Gear (Helmet, Spray Skirt, Paddle, PFD)
18. Using Gear Improperly (Drybag Not Securely Closed; Drainplug Left Open; PFD Not Tight; Drysuit Not Zipped; Helmet Not Fit)
19. Leaving Shuttle Car Keys in Wrong Place
20. No Dry Clothes at Take Out
What Factors Cause Trouble on the River?
Poorly Maintained Gear
Poor (or No) Flotation
Unfamiliar w/ River
No Spare Paddle
No 1st Aid Kit
Strainer (Down Tree)
Out of Shape
Small Group (<3 Boaters)
Gear for Recovery from Cold (Hypothermia)
Change in Weather
A Safe River Float Requires Knowledge, Preparation and Skill
Basic Rules for a Safe River Float
1. Choose Appropriate Paddle Trip
· Trip is manageable for ALL members of group (or restrict it to those who are).
· Understand Difficulty – Class Rating, Access, Remoteness, Distance from Shore.
· Have the Right Number of Boaters (3 or more; Not too many)
· Understand Presence of Motorized Traffic.
2. Assess Safety of River and Weather Conditions
· Is River at Safe Water Level?
· Know if Waters Are Rising.
· Know Current and Forecasted Weather Conditions.
· Pay Attention to Wind Levels (Even if Below Lake Wind Advisory).
· Check for Current Hazards ((e.g., Recent or New Strainers)
· Have Alternate Plan if Conditions are Bad
3. Create a Float Plan and Leave it with Someone
· Know the Put-in and Take-out.
· Know the Distance of Float.
· Allow Adequate Time for all Steps of Journey
· Leave Float Plan with Contact Person (and Notify When Off River)
River Wisdom to Remember:
1. You Never Step Into the Same River Twice
2. When in Doubt, PADDLE.
3. Kiss the Rock, Hug the Tree
4. When Recovering from a Swim, Crawl Before You Stand
5. To Control Boat, Go Faster or Slower Than the Current.
6. When in Doubt, SCOUT
7. Look Where You Want to Go, Not Where You Don’t
8. Let the River Do the Work - Paddle as Little as Possible.
9. Paddle with Your Core, Not Your Arms
10. Dress to Swim, Rig to Swamp, and Wear Your PFD
1. Arkansas Canoe Club (Attend Clinic – Whitewater School; School of Recreational Paddling)
2. American Whitewater
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