Water temp

Is anybody familiar with the Army Corp webpages where they indicate “water surface temperature” for a given lake? What is that? Is it just the temperature of the water at the surface?

Related question, I’m new to this and have no special cold weather/water clothes to wear yet . . . and I’ve been advised to stay off the water until the water temp gets up to 60. Sound advice?


cold weather clothes

– Last Updated: Apr-02-09 4:04 PM EST –

Here is a site I use for coastal water temperatures.

Yes, the temperatures are reading at close to the surface. Many areas could have very different temperatures at lower depths, but we are surface users, so don't need much else.

I wear a wet suit or similar whenever the water temperature is below 60-65 (no matter what the air temperature is). Water extracts heat from a body very quickly, and reduces the amount of time you can survive, so having clothing that maintains warmth should you end up in the water is important.

water temps
During the blessed few weeks when the water temps reach 60 degrees around here, I still think a wetsuit is required for safety. Perhaps if you’re paddling more protected areas, and much closer to shore then you might be ok without one. Go swimming for 30 minutes in 60 degree water, and see how chilled you are. I’d expect you wouldn’t be too happy.

It’s More Money, But…
A neprene top, for me, is clammy and confining. Hate it. A dry jacket and a neoprene bottom is the ticket for comfort on those not-that-cold days. I’d rather stay home than paddle in a wetsuit top.

For really cold conditions you can’t beat a full drysuit.

for temps that aren’t too cold
I’m very comfortable in an NRS little john, wicking t-shirt & undies underneath, and a splash jacket. I don’t particularly like cold weather and limit my paddling to 55°+ days, but have swam in 60° water for 20-30 minutes without the wetsuit before and it wasn’t bad, but that was with no wind. Worth trying yourself and see how comfortable or uncomfortable you are.

"Staying off the water"
That’s sound advice if you will not be close to shore. I may get flamed for saying this, as I’ve been flamed before, but on small waters where you are constantly near shore, especially small rivers, having a change of clothes in dry storage is a perfectly sensible safety precaution. People on canoe trips having been falling into cold water, then going to shore and changing clothes for longer than any of us have been alive, and for many paddling conditions it works fine. In that case, clothing that doesn’t chill you as badly when wet is good to have.

If you want to paddle farther from shore than a distance you can swim very quickly, immersion gear is the best way to go, and if the distance gets greater, it’s the only way to go. Bear in mind that you won’t be able to swim very far in cold water before becoming badly impaired.

Think wool if nothing else
Along with the dry change of clothes, when i go out earlier in the year i try and wear as much wool as i can compared to cotton or even poly, wool keeps its insulation after getting wet.

Lots of teenagers

– Last Updated: Apr-02-09 8:12 PM EST –

share Guideboat guys view and they are still alive..

I see them every year in the Kenduskeag stream race and marvel that they dump two three times over 17 miles, get out, empty the boat and keep paddling. However there is a Fire Department dive team with throw bags on hand.

This "wimp" meanwhile is drysuited. If you can get out quickly and have a dry bag of clothes and a hat..that works.

If I had to wait for sixty degrees I would never get out there. Some lakes turn over..and even out so that the surface temp is like the temp six feet down. Others have a thermocline and your feet can be in 34 degree water and your shoulders in 70 degree water.

No jeans though... or cotton t shirt and if you are on moving water immersion gear is a must..in case you lose touch with your boat and take a long swim.

Are you able …
…to keep the water out of the dryjacket when swimming with the neoprene bottoms?

Water temp
A hat?

Cold water info

Read, make your own decisions.

having dumped a couple of
times with those teenagers in the kenduskeag race I can attest to the fact that the water is quite cold but as long as you don’t stay in it too long it won’t kill you–I was wearing a farmer john–I also have a dry suit but the times I’ve done the race have been warm days (65 or better) and since the race involves two mandatory portages a dry suit would probably cause heat stroke while off the water.

xtgdan, the advise you have received …

– Last Updated: Apr-02-09 11:57 PM EST –

..... should be considered and acknowledged as "extremely" important advise concerning a very real and serious paddling hazard , and using all precaution methods at your disposal ... including staying off the water if not properly equipted .

In the paddling world , "cold water" is one of things that has "extremely" dangerous consequences . One should never take this topic lightly , and that can't be emphesized enough .

Especially since you are admitedly new to paddling adventures , it will be best if you approach the event of paddling in cold waters with an overdose of caution . After you have undertaken considerable self education from reading and talking with others as you are here , you will understand better just how dangerous cold waters can be ... it has taken the lives of many who were either unprepaired or chose blatant disregard .

When you read the USSARF link info. mintjulip provided , try to understand that the temps. given regarding survial time and exhuastion/unconsciousness , are meant to indicate exactly what they reference , and "do not" mean you will be capable of self rescue or controlled muscle coordination until those times given are reached ... quite the contrary .

Almost instantly when submerged in water under low 40's (unprotected) , the water begins to take it affects . Within 10 mins. your muscle coordination can be totally gone or useless to you . Many drown long before the exhaustion stage . The pain is extreme to many instantly . The thinking process is hampered severly long before you you become exhuasted or unconscious ... so understand that the window of survival can be very short in reality , it begins to disappear the instant you become submerged and dwindles rapidly from there , to the stage indicated as exhuation/unconscious .

Also understand that the more you move around once submerged , the faster the sequence unfolds , you lose vital body heat that much quicker when trying to self rescue , than taking the survival position .

My drysuit is GoreTex and its fine
however I am no help to my husband in getting the boat out at the end as I am making a beeline for the potty in the park!

Since no one has mentioned it…
The first rule of cold water is wear a PFD. No matter how close to shore, or how protected the water.

For a great resource google cold water boot camp. follow the link to the 10 minute you tube video or even better how to get the free dvd, Watch the 30 minute video, it is an eye opener.

For me under 60 degrees gets a wetsuit, under 50 and I’m beached. At least until I can get a drysuit

My base layer gets damp from wicking. Still beats the godawful neoprene top.


– Last Updated: Apr-03-09 9:21 AM EST –

Such an error here involved a coast guard evacuation and the kayak was towed 6 KM to the launch site by me.
A swim will allow water to go up inside a dry top from the bottom. If you have a good roll it works but when (WHEN) that roll fails you are in trouble.

I would paddle anyway but choose the venue carefully. I have a little cove htat I take beginners to, Lots of take outs, mostly waste deep, egress all around.

If you are in open water a dry suit or serious wet suit should be the word of thew day.

Yes, good advice NM

Surface water temp.
Water in most lakes generally stratifies into 3 layers.

The surface water is warmed by the sun and air, and this typically lays up high. (You have probably been swimming and found that you foot reached down into a colder layer.)

Below the top layer is a mid-layer that is colder, and this will extend down 30 to 60 feet, depending on the season. The bottom layer is called the thermocline, and this is the cold stuff. Typically starting at 30-30 ft, and extends all the way to the bottom. As a diver, I have been in the middle layer and touched the thermocline with a finger. It’s like sticking your finger into a bucket of ice-water. Divers who dive into the thermocline in July, must wear exactly the same cold weather equipment (wet suits, dry suits) as we do in February.

Yes, even at 60
your hands could start going numb in several minutes.

Last Fall I met a paddler who capsized on a warm day, about 60-65 water temp, he said his hands started going numb even with a fast assisted rescue back in the boat.

I picked up a short sleeve semi dry top for the spring. I can combine this with other dry pants and neoprene. I can roll and self rescue but want to give myself some extra time for other rescue options.