Caught on a river in a lighting storm

Is it better to stay in your boat on the water or get on the bank of the river which is all tall trees? This is all wilderness area with thick under brush in most areas.

Lightening loves tall trees.

Then again…
It depends on if it’s just a lightening storm or a real squall tossing up some good sized swells. In my experience they usually come together. I’d sooner head to shore and at least beach the boat in that situation.

It also loves boats

– Last Updated: Jul-15-07 1:17 AM EST –

on the water. Get to the river bank, get under a fly or in a tent, squat down on your dry thermarest or whatever and protect yourself from the ground currents which will stop your heart and ruin your trip. Most deaths are not caused by direct strikes but the ground currents from a nearby strike. Nothing will protect you from a direct stike. Stay in the open water, in a canoe or kayak, you are like a tall tree out there. The popular wisdom is to stay away from tall trees, find a substantial building or follow the advice above. It's what I do, but I naturally assume no liability for my well intent and advice. But..... I would so much welcome some other advice and real knowledge on this subject. My advice is from personnal experience, much reading and a lifetime of protecting my ham radio gear from lightning. As well as myself in the woods.

I stay in my kayak on the river. I have been in some pretty violent lightning storms and have enjoyed seeing them from that perspective. It is a very humbling experience.I have felt the concussion on my skin the same as when the windows shutter in the house and that violent force of nature is hard to hide from. It truly is a magnificient experience.

I have decided if it is my time then so let it be. I don’t have a death wish and I’m not rushing to me my maker but I believe the day he calls will be my day so it doesn’t matter where I am.

Can you really protect yourself?? I don’t really know the answer and I’m not advising anyone to do as I have…but if you than you will understand how I feel.

Good luck…however you decide.

As I’m out on open water a lot and
not always able to head to shore fast enough when a sudden storm hits, I just reel in and lay down my rods on the deck or in the canoe, scrunch down a bot, with my paddle across the deck, not in the water, and watch the storm. On a river, however, you may not be able to pull the paddle from the water.

Same here
Although we have been on several rivers in lightning storm where we padled in under large overhanging rock cliffs pulled out our PB & J sandwiches and enjoyed watching the show while we had lunch.



fry daddy
My opinion is that lightening seeks the highest object on the water. If you’re in a hull on open water, that would be you. Tall trees are no better. I always look for a low area such as a swale, scour, or ravine. I get in and stay as low as possible and away from the taller trees. Try to have footwear with some type of insulating soles and squat on the balls of your feet. It’s kind of a toss up but I defintely would not stay on the water and remember that lightening will seek out the tallest tree.


This has been discussed to death, but
apparently you are safest well away from the shore , or well on it, in the places mentioned above. Lightening results from the build up of charge which occurs quickly where two dissimilar materials meet - like right on the shore.

The really bad one I got caught in came up so quickly, all I could do was hunker down in the marsh in my boat.

Make sure to take off your headphones

I’ll definetly leave that kind of stuff at home. This river is only about 50 to 75ft wide. No rock over hangs or ravines. The forecast called for late afternoon thundestorms. It was only 11:00am. Only 2hrs. into a 4hr. trip. Looks like the best thing to do is pray & paddle. Thank you

You know, that is exactly what I did in
the marsh that day, but it was like ,“Well, Lord you got me if you want me”.

You guys know the Farraday effect-when you are surrounded by a metal cage a an electrical charge is place onto the cage you will not be electocuted no matter how large the voltage or amperage is—this is why (not rubber tires insulating you from the ground)you are safe in a car.

OK, what about capacitance? and what about dialectric constants?

I was told years ago by a lifeguard that if a lighting bolt hits the water and I’m in it swimming nothing will happen to me because of the vast capacitance of water to absorb the charge…

So maybe IN the water is the safest place to be…The lifeguard did mention that the theory he espoused is moot if your hand is touching the side of the pool or the ladder…


We got caught in one like that
in the middle of the Everglades, (nine mile pond canoe trail) and were in the wide open wet praire.

We just enjoyed the show.

Figure if your numbers up, it’s up !



Jacobsons “Cone of protection”

– Last Updated: Jul-16-07 9:44 AM EST –

Supposedly according to Cliff there is a cone of protection extending at a 45 degree angle out from treetop to the water. He recommends traveling or hiding in this cone during a lightening storm.

I've done most everything, stayed out on the water in the middle of the river, (Probably not the best),
pulled out to squat on shore and rode it out in the cone. Like GK I'm ready if it's my time, all I ask is that it's quick.

Here is an essay:

A nice theory BUT…
If you take a look at the link from jbruce above, and have any idea how lightning acts (somewhat randomly) you will know that if you are beside a tree, you may not catch a DIRECT strike, but are in big danger of secondary or side lightning jumping from the tree to you. Saying that there is a ‘cone of protection’ around a tree sounds ridiculous IMO.

He’s thinking of the
"cone of silence" from GetSmart.