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 Avoid Common Water Hazards

Avoid these life threatening kayak and canoeing water dangers 

STRAINERS - Death Traps

Strainers are a very common site on small streams that recently had a great deal of rain. When creeking,  always keep an eye out for them and typically get to shore ASAP when you see one unless there is an easy line around the obstruction. Strainers are usually downed trees or a collection of branches and trash.


Do whatever you can to avoid these death traps. If you accidentally swim into a strainer, work very hard to climb up on the structure rather than getting impaled or strained by hidden limbs.  If you can’t avoid a strainer, swim head first and quickly towards the strainer. When you reach the strainer, push yourself over the branch and kick your feet to help push you over. 


In 2013, two young girls in a canoe were drowned by a strainer on French Creek near Franklin, only 2 feet of fast flowing water and they were both wearing life jackets!



Dams can be manmade or natural. Of particular concern are low head dams (also known as “The Drowning Machine”). Manmade structures may also contain exposed rebar which can easily puncture plastic boats. Take great care whenever running manmade structures. 


Pipelines can act very similar to a manmade dam. They are essentially uniform with no breaks and at the right water level, they form holes that are very difficult to escape from. These need to be carefully scouted prior to running. Another worry about running a pipeline is the danger of undercuts. Since they are round, water can work its way underneath and create a dangerous entrapment possibility. 

The Downstream V & Upstream V

Rapids are formed by water running over and around rocks and ledges. The most basic feature is the downstream V that develops when water runs between two rocks. This feature is also known as a tongue. Generally, this is what you want to aim for.

The opposite of this feature is an upstream V. In an upstream V, water rushes around a rock.  In general, try to avoid upstream V’s or at least lean into the rock to avoid capsizing.

Avoid Stationery objects in moving water. - Bridge Abutments
Stay away from upriver side of bridge abutments. This obstacle is extremely dangerous for anyone  in a canoe/kayak which could becomed pinned by the flow of water pressure against stationery objects. 

Avoid dangerous fallen tree strainers
Canoe and kayak rive danger Dams
Downriver V
Bridge and rock abutments

It is illegal in Pennsylvania to drink alcohol or be under the influence while operating a boat, even a non-motorized one. You can be charged with boating under the influence (BUI), Fined, and up to 60 days in jail.

Temperature gauge

is when the air temperature and the water temperature combination equals 120 degrees. Many canoe and kayak rental stations abide by this formula. Temps below 120 are considered unsafe

Safe Water Temperature for Kayaking or Canoeing...
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