general calm river water info

Can anyone provide me with references on info relating to river water characteristics such as how flow is effected by depth and width of the river, bends in the riverbanks, etc. and/or does anyone know of a good book on paddling technique specifically for calm rivers? I paddle mainly calm (but sometimes swift moving) rivers with a higher-end recreational/light touring kayak, and would like to learn more about the characteristics of the water I paddle (beyond the observations I make from actually paddling - I have already figured out that paddling upstream is somewhat more difficult than downstream). Thank!

A good book describing …

– Last Updated: Jun-02-05 12:39 PM EST –

river hydrology is "The essential Whitewater kayker" by Jeff Bennett. William Nealys "Kayak" is also a good book. My opinion (and I am no expert) is that the characteristics are the same only on a smaller scale. :)

@@@ Oh and just a warning, you will probably get jumped on about this because you have rated yourself an intermediate in your profile and should probably know this stuff already. :)

Thanks for the reply and the info. And yes, I wondered about calling myself intermediate - I settled on that because I’ve been kayaking for a number of years, but on the other hand I just recently decided to get serious and learn what I’m doing (or what I am supposed to be doing).

Moving water
Swift water and whitewater aren’t that much diferent except the intensity.

Heathers suggestions are good as would be any decent text on whitewater.

You might try looking for a swiftwater or moving water class or failing that take a beginers whitewater class.

Paddle hard!


Understood :slight_smile:
I understand. If I were to go out onto a large body of open water I would be an absolute novice. I have no desire to though. :slight_smile:

In addition to the book stuff…
as you paddle, even in relatively calm currents, you can sometimes feel the water feeling literally harder under your boat, or trying to grab your bow more than your stern. If near quite aerated water, you’ll find that a (cautious!) brace feels like you are putting the paddle into whipped cream than water with surface tension that’ll support you.

Take note of this stuff and compare it to the info in the books. It’s fun anyway, and is helpful in preparing you to be comfortable in messier water. You can also take advantage of this behavior in manuvering your boat in some circumstances.

When the water is constricted into narrow channels or over shallow areas, the water moves more quickly (rapids). The river tends to be deeper on the outside of bends, shallow on the insides. Look at the banks of the river, are they gently sloping or dropping almost straight down? The contour of the bank usually continues into the water (giving you a clue as to depth on that side).

even calm rivers will have eddies and such that will affect your boat. Strainers and down fall trees can be hazardous and put ya under fast ,especially if ya brace upriver.

great tips
Thanks for the tips folks. In the last few weeks I’ve been literally beginning to make notes on the river I paddle most, recording things like where the river speeds up, how certain bends affect the currents, etc. It’s neat to see that what you’ve posted here jives well with my personal observations. I’ve become more interested in learning about the river this spring because we had a really quick spring thaw (3 feet of snow gone in about a week) and a lot of rain thereafer, so the dynamics of the river have been more appearant than usual and I decided it would be helpful (and safer) to learn more. Thanks again.

Some general reading on river

Look under Paddling Articles under
the “In the Same Boat” section archives and read through the “Anotomy of a River” series that Tamila has provided. Pretty good stuff. Actually, that whole section is full of good stuff.

I would like to share some invaluble tips that really helped me. You may or may not know these already.

  1. Get on the water that is going where you want to go.

  2. (From an expert kayaker) Novice paddelers look at thier bow. Intermediate kayakers look about 6 feet ahead of that. Expert kayakers look as far down the river as they can see.

  3. Downstream lean is very similar to turning on a bike. You want the downstream current to go under your boat - or it will pile up and flip you.

    These tips have helped to keep me from capsizing. have fun and be safe :slight_smile: