River Safety

You’re enjoying a calm float down a lazy river when suddenly you come across someone swimming and screaming for help. Do you know how to save them? Do you know what hand signals to use to communicate? How can you help them without putting yourself in danger? Andraya Grangroth, a whitewater raft guide for 10 summers breaks down the basic safety one must know before enjoying the river. Be safe, be smart and be educated!

Whether you are along a local mountain trail cooling off in a small stream after your hike, or along the river fishing for trout, one must always take into consideration the force water has, and how to safely enjoy this outdoor recreation. 

Having been a whitewater raft guide for ten summers I experienced first hand the power the river processes. I have seen rafts flip and get pinned on big rocks in the river, I have helped in live rescues where someone has gone overboard, and sadly I have even seen a dead body once while guiding a commercial trip. The fisherman was found dead after falling into the river while fishing. Knowing how to safely enjoy the water is vital to your survival, whether it’s a small stream crossing on a hike, enjoying a lazy float with your friends, fishing, or even your children playing along the water’s edge. Most accidents that happen on the water are due to intoxication, and the lack of knowledge.

River Safety 101:

  1.  Always wear a life vest that meets U.S Coast Guard requirements. 
  2. Never stand up in the water. When doing so your foot may get trapped in material underwater, and the force of the water will hold you down. 
  3. Keep an eye out for strainers. Strainers consist of debris that gathers along the shore, or on rocks. Strainers allow water to flow through, but nothing else. Strainers are more dangerous than rapids are. Avoid at all costs. 
  4. If you fall out of your vessel, swim as if we are sitting on a lazy boy. Your feet should always go first so you can use them to kick off rocks, and use your arms and hands to help navigate where you are trying to go. 
  5. Avoid bridge pylons. Man made structures are also more dangerous than rapids. 
  6. Carry a throw rope and learn how to use it in case someone else goes for a swim. This is an effective way to rescue a swimmer without putting yourself into harm’s way.
  7. If you are in a vessel, and someone else swims, use your paddle as an extra long arm to reach out to the swimmer and pull them in.
  8. Fishing with waders can be extremely dangerous if you fall in. Wear a life vest, always tighten your belt around your waist as tight as possible, and use a walking stick to help with balance when on the water. 
  9. Know how to properly perform cpr. It can save a life.
  10.  Never leave children unattended.
  11. When the water temperature is less than 50 degrees a wetsuit or drysuit is essential if you go for a swim. 
  12.  Carry a whistle on your life vest. 

Hand Signals for River Safety

  1. STOP!! Potential Hazard Ahead: Stretch your arms straight out to your sides and move up and down vertically. 
  2. Asking Someone if They are Okay: While holding your elbow out to the side, repeatedly tap the top of your head. 
  3. I’M NOT OKAY: Make an X with your arms in front of you.
  4. Eddy Out: Use your arm and make a big circle above your head, and then point to the safe area to eddy out. 
  5. Help/Emergency: Blow hard, three blasts on a rescue whistle while waving a paddle or rescue throw rope over your head.
River Rafting

Follow these tips and plan your trip to the safely enjoy the great outdoors. Learn more about safety and gear.

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