Night Paddling?

When it warms up again in PA, I want to paddle by night. Is there anything that I should know such as regulations for doing so and any helpful tips from others who’ve done it? I’ll be sticking to large bodies of water such as a lakes and slow rivers for it.

Be seen
I use a head light, and a glow stick on my back. I can bee seen, but it doesn’t affect my night vision.

of course wear your pfd. But go out at night, you’ll love it.

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Unique Experience
You’re going to enjoy it. The glow-stick on the back is a great idea by the way. Only way I’ve ever done it is out in the lake not down the rivers.

Check with waterborne law
enforcement in your paddling area in case there are specific lighting requirements for night paddling. States vary. White light/flashlight often required. You want to meet at least the minimum to both prevent, and in case of, an accident. R

it s good idea to know the body of water that you intend to paddle. I.E , downed trees, limbs that stick out, submerged logs…

A full moon paddle is the way to start. find out the law for Pa. as to lights for i.d.

Kayak shops sell small clip on red, green, and white.

I have been on the Alleghany Res at night and it was a great paddle. You will see more than you think, you will hear much more than before.

head lamp a good idea , but if your with others, resist the urge to look at them when talking. The light in the eyes takes away the night vision for some time.

I’ve done night paddling on small lakes
in the Georgia mountains. I knew the lakes well from daylight paddling, so rocks and branches were not an issue.

It was best on moonless nights, after campers had shut off their Coleman lanterns. Once my eyes were dark-adapted, it was quite easy to get around without a headlamp.

On large bodies of water, one may be forced to use a strong headlamp because lights of houses, campers, autos, etc., will ruin one’s night vision. (I was puzzled by an earlier poster’s statement that he used a headlamp but didn’t lose night vision. A red headlamp?) And if there are other, larger boats on the water, then some running lights are a good idea.

I personally would not ususally paddle a body of water at night if lights on shore were spoiling my night vision. I don’t think native Americans would use torches unless they were jacklighting deer or attracting fish. Headlamps confine one to just a small lighted cone, and if I could put Sylvania car lights on the boat, it would just become obscene, not really night paddling at all.

I use these

They make you look like a powerboat, are suction cup mounted, and meet all regs. I get lots of positive comments from powerboaters about them.

I’m likely to be found out in saltwater after dark, so the single white light that is required (To be in your posession, not turned on)really doesn’t cut it, IMO. These don’t mess with your night vision, either.

Probably light visible 360 degrees

– Last Updated: Dec-24-09 6:32 AM EST –

Check your state's laws, but it isn't unlikely that you are supposed to carry a white light visible in 360 degrees. You can get deck lights at marine stores that have suction cup bottoms and can be pulled out to mount on your deck.

Note re white light versus yellow - in bug season the bugs will go for a white light over a yellow one. On really mosquito heavy evenings I often try to forgo the headlamp because of the company it gets, send them to my deck at least a couple of feet away instead.

Get reflective tape and mark your boat's bow and stern if you are going to be in a waterway with other traffic. Also put it on your paddle blades.

As to the green and red thing - strictly speaking paddle boats in a kayak length are not required to use this. And there is the consideration that a red/green setup usually indicates a boat under power - in other words one that could get out of the way of oncoming traffic a lot faster than a kayak can. But there are people like Wayne who use them and have found they worked out well. So use your own judgment on that one.

I paddle
quite often in coastal virginia waters at night and the Coast Guard does not want paddlers to use red/green lights on our bow. It gives power boaters the impression that we are a “maneuverable vessel”, which we are not in the coast guard’s definition. A tall 360 degree white light on the stern and a headlamp will suffice. I like to use SOLAS tape along the tape lines between my deck and hull as well as on the back face of my paddles. Paddling at night is great, just take some extra precautions to keep safe.

ColRegs Rule 25
Defines light usage for us

If you paddle inland, strobe light might be sufficient, but it is best to check with whatever local authority is.

If you paddle Great Lakes, you need to have lights satisfying R25, and emergency signaling device(s) for night and day usage.

Flare gun satisfies requirement for both day and night, I’d recommend searching for additional information on the internet. Keep in mind - device has to be USCG certified.

Strobe light
I tend to stay away from strobes as a regular use light, because if I understand it correctly they are supposed to indicate distress. I don’t trust our local motor boaters well enough to figure they’ll stop in time if they decide to run over and “help”.

That said, some around here do use them and so far no one’s been engine fodder.

Paddling at night is really nice.
You don’t need to run with lights in PA, but need to have a light on board in case you are approached. But I avoid lakes that have a lot of power boat traffic at night.

I combine sunset/moonlight paddles, and usually time my night paddles 3 or 4 days before the full moon. Find a moon/sun chart. I look for a date when the moon is near its apex when the sun sets. That way you have good light. In a group I like to have light sticks on the boats and one on the person. Light sticks around the neck usually disappear in the PFD and hair. So we have been putting light sticks either around the head like a halo, or around the arm.

The lighting on the waves is beautiful and the experience is magical. Have fun and be safe.

My personnal limit is to
stay off any river regardless of size at night. You may drift imperceptively slow and still hit something you did not see because you are not where you thought you were. Stay on a body of water you travelled before and know well. PA requires you to carry a light you can operate by hand and display instantly when needed. Running lights are not required but advised. I only display a light when encountering other craft. I don’t like to ruin my excellent night vision if not required. You may find a different comfort level. If anchored or not underway, an all around white light must be displayed continuously.

I go quite often on the Kinzua/Allegheny Res all summer long. I launch from Willow Bay most of the time. If you are out this way, post it on the getting together page and perhaps we can drift around some evening.

Local paddles to you…
I see you are in Berks County. Not too far from me in Western Montgomery co, PA.

Two places that we do our night paddles is Marsh Creek State Park (lake). For night paddles at Marsh Creek you can’t use the park’s main entrance but there is a boat launch on the western side of the lake open to night boaters and fishing folks. No motor boaters (electric only) either which makes it nice and quiet.

The other night time flatwater we paddle is Blue Marsh Lake in Bern, PA. We always launch on the north side of the lake just west of Church road into a no-wake zone… also less crowded.

Feel free to email me if you want more info.

This topic got me thinking
but apparently someone else already thought of it. I guess I still have to keep my day job.

Canoe/kayak night stick
Engineered this with some old PVC pipe and fittings hanging around. The black rubber band on the main shaft allows one to feed the ball of the C-light through, as a security step that the light doesn’t tumble overboard. Both the C-light and glow stick fit snugly into either end of the 3/4 to 1/2 inch reducing joint. I only employ the stick when I am close to oncoming vessels, as it’s NOT way comfortable next to my spine, beneath the PFD. The UNOBSTUCTED 360-degree white light satisfies the local (NH) inland water regs.

E with questions.

i’ve been waiting
for the LED lights to come out! Incadescent ones eat batterties.

I have soem coleman bumblebee lights in red & green I clip to my bow grab-lines witha white light stick on the stern.

I also added reflective tape to the boat.

And sometimes I toss my 3 D-cell maglight into the boat. it lights up my entire kayak!

BUT, I learned one thing…

It is YOUR responsibility to be seen. That boat is a hundred times your size and so far up you are invisible so even if you are legally in the right…

… it won;t stop his prop from chewing you up!

Full moon paddles are a great starter
A group I paddle with does full moon paddles down the Bantam River to the Bantam Lake in CT. We paddle across the lake to a town beach and have a little party with whatever everybody brings. The first time out I brought my headlamp, but realized that it was unnecessary. Somebody hit the dollar store and bought a bag of glow sticks and everybody put one on the front and back of their kayak. Looked kind of pretty watching everybody head across the lake. As said before, best to paddle the area in the daylight first so you have a good idea what’s around. I love paddling at night.

or no moon at all

– Last Updated: Dec-24-09 5:54 PM EST –

Cutting across a mirrored reflection of stars on a calm night on a big northern lake is simply awesome. The sights and sounds are definitely different and intriguing.
I spent a bunch of evenings this past spring and summer doing solo paddles that started after midnight. I always bring two decent headlamps and take extra precautions to stay warm in the sub 40 degree air that can stick around until June. I found the no moon paddling to be fascinating. The eyes seem to adjust and the milky way gives off enough light so that the use of headlamp is not always warranted.
With a bright light on the moose paid no attention to me at all. I think I just looked like a firefly to them as they walked within five feet of my boat. I wouldn't try that in the light of day.
These videos are from those evenings and pretty much sums up each of the night paddles at Umbagog Lake I did this year. Fun stuff!
Birds do not like bright lights at night. Seem to be far more sensitive. Eagles, owls, hawks, loons get very stressed out when lit. It must hurt their eyes. I have learned to leave them alone and just listen and know they are there. Wouldn't want to hurt them. I feel kind of bad about using a light in their presence.
The rainy nights are unbelievably dark! Cant see a thing without a headlamp.

I paddle rivers alot at night, I carry a big mag light with me that I use when I hear rough water. The rivers I paddle there is no fear of power boats. Some of the best experiences I’ve had have been at night. It’s really cool when you come across someone camping on the river and you can see there campfire way down the river, it really gives you a different perspective on the river. Have fun, don’t miss your take out, and don’t get your eye gouged out by a low hangin branch.