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Dallas Downriver Club Dallas, TX

Be prepared for your next paddle trip

2 May 2022 9:24 AM | Bryan Jackson (Administrator)

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?


Human Factors

Equipment Factors

Environmental Factors

Alcohol Consumption

Poorly Maintained Gear

High Water

No Lifejacket

Poor (or No) Flotation

Cold Temp

Unfamiliar w/ River

No Spare Paddle

Dams (Hydraulics)

Insufficient Skill

No 1st Aid Kit

Strainer (Down Tree)

Out of Shape

Improper Clothing

Undercut Rock

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


Additional Resources

1.     Arkansas Canoe Club (Attend Clinic – Whitewater School; School of Recreational Paddling)

2.     American Whitewater

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