WATER TRAILS SAFETY
Dial 911 to reach emergency personnel in the area.
- Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD) – life jacket. PFDs are the most important piece of safety equipment on your float.
- Wear proper clothing and be prepared to get wet. Layer clothing that can be added or removed during the float, including a long sleeve shirt and pants. Cotton will keep you cooler in summer, while wool will keep you warm and insulates even when wet. Weather is unpredictable, so bring clothing for cold, wet, windy, hot, sunny and humid conditions. Don’t forget rain gear. Pack extra clothing in a waterproof container.
- Wear shoes. Tight fitting “water shoes” or old gym shoes with tops and sides work well. Pack an extra pair of shoes for the end of the day.
- Protect yourself from the sun. Bring a wide brim hat, sunglasses and use sunscreen. A long sleeve shirt and pants provide good sun protection, as well. The sun’s reflection off the water can be intense.
- Stay hydrated. Take more water than you think you will need. It is extremely important to avoid dehydration.
- Use insect repellent.
- Know what poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac look like and stay away.
- Do not attempt to handle wild animals.
- Pack a first aid kit.
- Have tether ropes on your canoe in case towing becomes necessary.
- If you capsize, always avoid the downstream side of the canoe. The current may push the canoe over you or pin you against an obstruction.
- When entering and exiting a canoe, keep your center of gravity low, avoid standing.
- When you encounter a fence, STOP and plan your passage. Barbed wire fences can sometimes be negotiated by holding the fence up while going under it. Electric fences create an entirely new set of challenges. Always assume that electric fences are “hot.” If you cannot safely go under the fence, get out and portage.
Hypothermia occurs when the core body temperature drops to a point where vital organs can no longer function. Survival in cold water depends on many factors, including water temperature, body size, clothing, and activity in the water. Children, because of their smaller size, cool more rapidly than adults. Swimming will cause a person to cool about 35 percent faster than remaining still.
An average person wearing a life jacket may survive 2½ to 3 hours in 50 degree water by staying still. It is important to wear a life jacket, since it will keep you afloat while allowing you to remain still. It will also keep you afloat in the event you are unconscious.
Remember, in an accident, most canoes will float even when capsized or swamped. Climb into or on the canoe and get as far out of the water as possible. Water will cool your body temperature 25 times faster than the air. Do not remove clothing while in the water.
If you tip your craft in cold water and get your clothing wet, remove the wet clothes and find dry ones as quickly as possible. Drying clothing while wearing them consumes a tremendous amount of body heat…heat that is needed in cooler weather to prevent hypothermia.
Understand that even in 60 degree weather, wind and wet clothing can sap a dangerous amount of body heat over several hours. Some 50 percent of the body’s heat is lost through your head, so keep your head out of the water.