River Evaluation – Play It Safe  Before You and Your Kayak Hit the Water 

 

Okay, so you’ve found a new stretch of river that looks promising, and you’re itching to get your boat on the water. But not so fast. River evaluation is an important part of every safe paddling adventure.

Before you take on an unknown river, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself and your partners into.

 

The four main considerations are:

· Your ability
· The class of rapids you’ll be tackling
· The current river flow level
· Your kayak and supporting equipment

You should have a pretty good idea about the first factor, but the other three aren’t always so easy to determine. If you have a friend who’s paddled the stretch of river in question, pick his or her brain and get as much information about the type and class of rapids you’ll be facing and any hazardous features or water levels. And make sure your kayak and other gear are appropriate for the conditions.

If you don’t know anyone who’s familiar with the river, try asking a rafting guide or a canoe livery operator. These folks are usually excellent sources of info regarding the rivers they service. They can warn you about any difficult or dangerous conditions, including unusually cold temperatures, high water levels, or particularly challenging rapids.

And if none of these sources comes through, you can always hike down the river to see for yourself what lies ahead. Sure, this might be a lot of work, and it’ll take away from your time on the water, but that’s a lot better than getting caught in a situation you’re not prepared or equipped for.

In summary, always know what you’re getting yourself into before you hit the water, and chances are you’ll have a great time and make it home with your kayak–and yourself–in one piece.