What can I do? What can we all do?

One thing that has been done around here - and we sometimes do something right - is put these up at boat landings.

This was largely the work of our local “Friends of River ______” group. Becoming a member and contributing to such groups (or perhaps even starting one, if necessary) is something all of us can do to help.

It doesn’t address every safety concern, of course, but its a pretty good start. Its at least a way to remind everyone that safety is something to be thought about by anyone putting in. And it does so gently and without arousing the ire of those who rebel at regulations of any sort - and removes excuses for not having a PFD for everyone in every boat as regulations require.


Guys thanks for the really great posts I will digest the information and look into the links.

The reason I set my personal limit at 65 is I know what that is like and I know the likely hood of capsizing in our river what currents there are and the length of swim I would have and the fact I would have a partner to help bring my boat back if all I need to do was swim out. Anything boarder line chances are we are hugging the bank also.

It is really the couple weeks before and the couple weeks after the prime season where the danger happens with the uninformed. All it takes is a warm weekend after a cold week and they are out there.

As an example about a week ago people were doing yard work and golfing, bike riding etc as we had a weekend in the 70s. Today we have 10” of snow on the ground and air temps in the teens. That snow will melt fast and water will be high and cold and who knows could be in the 70s again. Perfect storm for getting in trouble without immersion gear.

1 Like

Back in the day, the American Red Cross dominated flatwater canoe training. If you wanted to get certified as a flatwater canoe instructor, that was the ticked to get punched. For whitewater instructor certs, it was ACA. For some reason Red Cross dropped it’s canoeing program, and today ACA dominates paddlesports instruction.

1 Like

You really are going against the grain of current thinking. The trend now: “It’s all about your freedoms”.

Not sure where your comment was heading. I have always been about personal freedoms and my belief is our freedom should extend until it interferes with the freedom of others. For most things, I really don’t want additional regulations on paddling.

On the other hand education is a powerful tool to help others to select how they should view their personal freedoms. Education and regulated education is a sticky subject when it comes to driving a car or owning a firearm as both can quickly infringe on the rights of others. I don’t think I need regulations on what size soft drink I can buy.

My goal in starting the thread was to talk about what I can do or what any of us can do to help the homegrown overall safety of paddling without stepping on anyone’s freedoms

I don’t know if anyone pays attention to the cold water warnings that NOAA regularly issues. It may help a little that our local TV stations do stress cold water safety during the weather segments. Yes people can have the freedom to be dumb.

It seems that that there is a hue and cry over regulating when paddlers drown. Not so much when there is a powerboat crash. The legislators start chest thumping. I don’t think their real agenda is safety though… it would to me more likely to be revenue.


It is hard to tell who pays attention as all we see are the ones that don’t and show up to paddle in shorts and a tee when the water is 40F. There well could be 100s that see the warnings and stay home.

For the most part I think people don’t go on line and look for the information or at least people in the high-risk group. That was my original idea to confront them with the fact of the current water temp at the point of entry and then supply a few quick facts of what they should be doing and the likely fate of what they are about to do as they are less than prepared.

I don’t want a sign there saying river closed to all as there are people that know what to expect and have taken proper steps to minimize risks.

On the revenue question I don’t mind at all spending the 10-20 bucks for a launch permit per year. The part I mind is I don’t see anything for my money except a sticker showing I paid it. If they even took a little and made some efforts to do anything at the launch sites. Even a sign telling you how long it is to the next official launch. Or some safety information. The loaner PFD is a great idea also. I have to wonder around here how long it would take for them to all turn up missing.

A part of life is managing your personal well-being. Safety first. Danger second.

Well Bud and Moulton, you’ve inspired me. I’m going to try to purchase a box of the aca’s “beginners guide to safe paddling” and distribute them as I travel around the country finishing my paddle of all 50 states. I’ve never turned any of my own personal hikes or paddling trips into “a cause or charity event” but this seems like a simple thing that I could do. I notice the materials are not for sale so I’ll have to contact the aca to make this happen.

I’ll let you know how this goes and hopefully have some materials to share at the pcom rendezvous.

As far as personal freedom versus regulation and chest thumping, none of that seems to matter when an actual fatality occurs. It is just tragic and devastating. All paddling holds some inherent risk and ww in particular can be risky.

Some people die because they don’t heed basic safety protocols like: wearing a pfd, dressing for immersion, or just get really drunk and end up drowning. That’s when it sucks even more because you know that it was very preventable.


I think you may have a start on a good analogy.

Educating, not regulating, people in regards to safe paddling is like educating, not regulating, people in regards to healthy eating. Both types of education if heeded will save lives, but regulations in both cases would be too intrusive and arbitrary and probably still ignored by those who ignore the education.

1 Like

the last revenue proposal here in Maine if I recall correctly was registration. For paddlecraft that would mean a yearly fee and also registered vehicles motorized or not must pay yearly excise tax.

I have a bunch of boats. Last time this idea raised its ugly head I came to a penalty of some 800 dollars a year.

1 Like

Interesting look at boat registration and revenue from said registration by AWA


1 Like

I knew it was a while ago… But 19 years?? Really old link.

Yes, it does look like Aw hasn’t updated that page in a while. Michigan isn’t on it and we had another round of an attempt to require a $21/3 year registration back in 2018. Right now that would be $168 for 3 years at this house. We were able to knock it down but these things seem to return every 10 years or so.

The AW page does have some good information and talking points like this:
“Although American Whitewater shares the goal of improving the safety of recreational paddlers, we feel that these agencies have not yet made a good case for boat registration or mandatory education. We believe that wider education can be provided voluntarily, without creating an intrusive government program and unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles for participants. The challenges we face today remain the same as they were 20 years ago. The vast majority of fatalities would not have happened if the victims had worn life vests, and many others could be prevented if they avoided alcohol or drugs. Other deaths could be eliminated if paddlers who lack specialized equipment and advanced training stayed away from cold water, high water and extreme weather conditions. We feel that the current approaches used by government agencies and user groups have made good progress, and stand ready to help improve and refocus these efforts.”


Paddle boat registration, invasive species permits and inspections, and launch fees vary from state to state and even within a state. If I paddle in PA I always have to figure out if where I’m specifically launching and if it requires a launch permit. Ohiopyle State Park on the yough in PA does their own thing- and it varies by the weekday or weekend and time of year. The state wildlife areas/parks require launch permits (like the Casselman) and yet there are a lot of areas that don’t require anything. Bucks county and Tohickon creek was totally bizarre in the 80s. You camped in a closed campground where the gate was left wide open (officially the campground closed for the season the weekend before). Instead of registering you paid a fine and then you paid another fine to park along the road to takeout- and all of that was considered normal by the folks I was camping and boating with. So PA is one place I try to do my homework.

At least in Ohio you can carry your out of state id with you and not get ticketed for boating. When I lived in Ohio I didn’t register my boats. I seldom boated in Ohio and when I did I took my chances with off the radar runs but OH is a state that enforces.

I have boated in several states that have some sort of boat registration requirement but I was blissfully unaware. Hopefully it was just for residents. I forget which states require that you register with them or you must register with your home state.

Sometimes the permits and stickers go inside the pelican box. They just aren’t designed for inflatables- think rafts and duckies.

A much bigger deal is your right to river access. That varies greatly from region to region. Tribal land, ranch land, king’s land can all make paddling problematic.

Enforcement of the rules varies greatly as well. If you are in a national park, state park or designated state wildlife area, or at a popular blm access then enforcement is more likely. If you want to boat in the Tetons and you are in the national park I think you have to get a special permit in addition to the invasive species permit. Deschutes in Oregon around Maupin is very confusing- I’m not sure they know what they are doing. There are a few places where the forest service gets wound up (like the natahala, or parking off the pavement at the Tellico) but generally they are pretty laid back about paddlers.

So I met a lone kayaker in Swirly Canyon on the South Fork of the Payette. I couldn’t help but grin when I caught him glancing to see if we had our invasive species stickers- he was a ranger boating alone but you couldn’t really tell until we chatted him up. I got stopped once in WV. A ranger was waving us down running down the bank from the road as we descended dunloup creek (goes into the New at Thurmond) because somebody had called 911. I guess they were afraid we didn’t know about the waterfall which we had no plans of running. That was really weird for us because we were having a dry hair day.

In general I don’t try to cheat the system but sometimes the rules get a little overwhelming when they vary so much from place to place.

Tommy Chase (Baxter State Park retired ranger) and I had a good talk the last time I was up in Maine at the Matagamon Wilderness Campground. When I was taking scout groups out in the early 80s, he was frequently checking to make sure we had our pfds and permits. We had a good chuckle about that, 40 years later.

Bottom line, sometimes you got to pay the MAN and sometimes you don’t. I try to go back to places where I feel like I’m wanted, not abused.

1 Like

When they start charge toll fees on waterways, I’ll sell my toys. I get the invasive species controls, but in the total picture, that will be a lost cause.

In Pa I find well worn stealth launch sites right next to the official paved official launch. At first I thought they were used by people that didn’t want to wait their turn, but was told that’s where you go if you don’t have the sticker. It is totally stupid.

The money goes someplace and I suspect it mostly goes to paying someone to enforce the stickers.

I have said with modern cars and GPS it wouldn’t be to hard to have cars not go over the speed limit or even go under the speed limit when weather was bad. That would take away the revenue stream and likely cause traffic problems as well. They actually want people to speed but no one wants to talk about that.

Again I want to thank everyone posting I’m enjoying reading the linked materials and trying to get a feel for what would be a good safety project here.

The presentation linked below (both YouTube & Vimeo) are from the 2022 Quiet Adventures Symposium (QAS). There is a $10 fee to have access to the 20 some presentations there but QAS & Johnathon and QAS have opened these up to all.

YouTube: Johnathan Ahlbrand_Cold Water, Deadly Water - YouTube

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/672369165/f70b3b92d8?fbclid=IwAR2dnF5wsrC86_BmpO8YL5fBRFARr71NSzf-gvyv_GnSchc0j2NsmqMjE1U

To get access to the remainder of the QAS presentations you can go here: https://quietwatersociety.org/


Here is what I have learned about giving unsolicited advice to novice paddlers: I ask them politely if they know they are paddling with their paddle upside down and they (usually a guy) say “Yaah and that’s the way I like it.” Have a nice day.

50/50 on that one. Half tell me they mean it, the other half really want to know which way is up.