Newbie Paddlers, Please Listen

Just read a trip report on “Places to Paddle” and saw a statement that disturbed me. Someone who considered paddling through a culvert with significant current. If you come across a culvert like this PLEASE don’t even consider paddling through it! It would be akin to Russian Roulette, because trash, trees, limbs etc. get trapped in there and think “Strainer” and YOU would be the pasta!

I believe
there was a death in Rhode Island last year attempting that same thing. Whatever you can’t see, get out and scout.

Another way for things to go bad

– Last Updated: Apr-11-12 6:29 PM EST –

Imagine seeing a clear, unobstructed path through the culvert and "going for it", but partway through you get a little cockeyed and the nose of your boat somehow catches on the culvert wall (it could be a misaligned joint or a damaged part of the pipe, or even just the corrugations of a metal pipe). This would be worse than a regular pin because in a matter of a few seconds, the water upstream of you would start to pile up on account of you and your boat obstructing so much of the cross section of the pipe, creating a stronger hydraulic head pressure. Good luck getting free when the water behind you suddenly gets dammed-up four or six inches higher than the water in front of you. Of course, this same thing would happen if you got stuck in the pipe in some more predictable way. You're probably done-for whichever reason you get stuck, and it's worth realizing it could happen without there even being a "strainer" in the usual sense.

I've paddled through box culverts that were very large, with shallow water and minimal flow, where a person could as easily walk through as float through, but a culvert like the one in that trip report? No way!

Something similar
happened to me once. My kayak got stuck crossways across a stream. It took a good 10 minutes to dislodge the kayak. Meanwhile, as you say, the water was flowing forcefully against the upstream side of the kayak and it took all my strength and my paddle wedge against the side of the kayak to stay upright. Even worse, this happened in cold water. Lesson: don’t paddle into any flowing stream that’s narrower than the length of your kayak.

I suspect many of us have paddled safely through large culverts with a weak current, but the photo at the above link shows a very dangerous situation and hopefully whoever posted it will revise the text.

agree , ought to be revised …
… the trip poster shouldn’t even suggest the idea of running through it , should revise to say “don’t even think of trying it” . I mean how can one know once you go in … SNAG , you it , didn’t see that coming , better call his/her family and give them the bad news …

it’s a good call wilderness , who knows what ideas some might get when they read things like that … best you can do is open it up in hopes of countering for safty sake

Perception of danger is tricky.
I bet a lot of people would try it, but if circumstances changed a tiny bit or you had a moment of inattention what seemed like an easy obstacle becomes deadly.

Funny, people paddle through the
Etowah Mine Tunnel where visibility is worse than with many culverts and where there are lots more snaggy places to catch wood and knock boat bows askew. Yet I’m unaware of any deaths there.

I have run some low bridges, and some tight bridge passages, but I don’t recall running a culvert. Yet I think I can judge whether me, my boat, and the culvert are going to get along well together without some no-culverts-no-way-never rule.

strainer, shmainer
the real problem is the spiders that inhabit such places. EEK!

Yes I’m jesting, stay out of those things!

Thinking of the culverts at Cedargrove

– Last Updated: Apr-12-12 11:58 AM EST –

and thinking how deadly those could be..does anyone ever try to go through them?

At high water the whirlpools those inlets cause can be downright scary and I was amazed that on the Current when I went when the water was high, that the culvert inlets were not "roped off"

I have a "home culvert" between my lake and the next but it is some eight feet in diameter and height with a current of about .5 mph no matter or how high or low the water..(which varies by inches). More like a bridge..only 60 feet long and perfectly safe..except for the bats.

Culverts & low water brides

– Last Updated: Apr-12-12 1:12 PM EST –

On more than one occasion in Missouri, after rivers have dropped from flood stage; I have seen parts of fence posts with barbed wire still attached, hung up inside culverts under low water bridges. Many miles of Ozark rivers border cattle ranches.

Have seen fence post w/ barbed wire attached in the culverts at Cedar Grove.

Also seen in the culverts at Cedar Grove; parts of large travel trailers that were swept out of Baptist Camp, when river rapidly came up in flood stage.

I don't do culverts.


P.S. Add a g, after the d in brides. :^) LOL!

the trip poster’s own words …
… “Were I much younger (and consequently more rash) , I would have tried it” .

It’s the last part , “I would have tried it” that is all wrong .

With some things a “try” is ok because failure is acceptable … with other things like that culvert , a “try” won’t cut it , you must succeed because the alternative has deadly consequence .

The stakes become much higher when viewed in that perspective . There is plenty of paddling to be done along the way … missing one culvert ain’t gonna ruin it all , running through it could though .

I fully understand the mind set of chance it … but when the alternative outcome is so one way , it becomes much more than chance it , it’s more like russian rullet .