Tips On How To Be A Safe Paddler

Nature At The Confluence in South Beloit, Illinois, recently held a “Safe Paddling 101” program so paddlers can learn how to be better prepared and stay safe on the water. There has been quite a few days of high water on Turtle Creek (Beloit, South Beloit – tributary of the Rock River) and Rock River this summer and more than a few people have had some tip overs and some have lost equipment.

Nature At The Confluence’s Safe Paddling 101 program was offered in partnership with the joint Stateline Swift Water Rescue Team comprised of firefighters from the South Beloit Fire Department and City of Beloit Fire Department. Did you know that this highly trained team is one of the few in the WI/IL region? They’ve been called on in July to assist with rescues on the Kishwaukee River and they also provided assistance to Burlington, WI when their city was flooded by the Fox River. This program was also offered in partnership with Friends of Turtle Creek and the Rock River Trail. Rocktown Adventures also brought a variety of paddle equipment to show the essentials that every paddler should have with them.

We’re lucky to have beautiful waterways to enjoy in our area and we want everyone to safely enjoy them!

If you missed the presentation, here’s some notes from the presentation.

Safe Paddling Tips

#1TIP from the Swift Water Rescue Team – if you get in trouble on a waterway – call 911 right away. The team would rather get there and find you don’t need them.

#2 TIP from the Swift Water Rescue Team  – Keep your cell phone on your body in a dry bag (or in a zippered pocket in your life jacket). Because you can’t call 911 if you don’t have your phone. It won’t do you any good if you lose your kayak (yes, it has happened this year) or you lost your phone in the water (yes, this has also happened this year!)

#3 TIP from the Swift Water Rescue Team – A throw rescue rope is important equipment. Practice using it.

Other Tips

  • Check Water Levels before you go. Check this gage for Turtle Creek – at it’s highest in July, the level was 7.3 and at that level it was not a good idea for anyone to be on the creek.
  • Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back
  • Don’t paddle alone
  • Bring the right equipment and have it accessible
    • Life Jacket is required, does not need to be worn by adults, but it is recommended (preferrably a jacket with zippers where you can stash your phone and whistle). Have kids wear life jackets.
    • Whistle
    • Paddle Leash
    • Pump
    • 2nd set of clothes in a dry bag
    • Drinking Water
    • Extra paddle (put your phone # on both)
    • Sponge
    • Duct Tape
    • Dry Bag
    • Put your phone # inside your kayak (yes, people have lost kayaks this year!)

Be Prepared

  • Learn how to do a self rescue in case you tip over in the river. Go to a lake to practice how to do a rescue. (Watch some YouTube videos to learn more)
  • Take an Intro to Paddling class from Rocktown Adventures in Rockford or other outfitter.
  • Don’t under estimate the water—it may be higher than you expect due to situations upriver.
  • Write your phone number with a Sharpie inside your kayak (yes, people have lost kayaks this year!)

While Paddling…

  • Always stay aware where you are on the water (bridge signs, river mile markers) – this helps with rescues
  • Watch the water—”read” for weird currents, fallen logs, submerged logs, rocks
  • Stay balanced in your kayak
  • When “ducking” under a tree, lean forward and duck, not backward or sideways.
  • Scout out trouble spots—only 1 person go through first
  • When in a group, one experienced person in the lead, one experienced person in the back to ensure everyone is safe.