With a little bit of preparation, spending a day on the water can be relaxing and fun for everyone. Review guidelines regarding safe trip planning and gear recommendations. Additionally, be aware of current weather and river conditions to ensure a successful trip. Make sure you learn about the different water hazards you may encounter in Ohio’s rivers and streams, figure out how to identify them from the water, and learn how to navigate them if you run into any. Never paddle in water that’s too low and avoid water conditions beyond your skill level. These may vary depending on the section of river you want to paddle, so check with local experts or access point owners ahead of making your trip.

  • Never head out on the waters alone.
  • Read about the local park and safety rules before your trip.
  • Let a friend know your route and estimated time of return.
  • Understand how to control and stop your boat at any time.
  • Learn how to recognize and navigate hazards.
  • If your boat becomes stuck, shift your weight and carefully push off with a paddle or pole.
  • In an emergency, it is generally advisable to stay in your boat to increase visibility.
  • Review the Blueways Map to plan your route and check for permanent hazards to avoid.
  • Check river conditions. Water levels that are too high or low will result in dangerous paddling and extend the time of your trip.
  • Know stopping points along your route and plan an emergency route.
  • Consult with local waterway experts to find information regarding recent hazards.
  • Schedule enough time to complete your trip before sunset.
  • Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket that fits properly.
  • Wear clothing that will dry quickly when wet (no cotton) and is suitable for the weather.
  • Wear shoes that are protective. Sandals are not recommended.
  • Bring a spare paddle or pole
  • Carry a noise-making device, such as a whistle or horn. This will help emergency responders to find you quickly.
  • Do not rely on your phone service in an emergency. Bring other devices such as a flashlight or radio.
  • Other essentials include a first-aid kit, plenty of drinking water, sunscreen, sunglasses, and bug repellent.

Check Water Levels (USGS National Water Dashboard)

Types of Hazards (Ohio Department of Natural Resources)

Learn About Lowhead Dams (Ohio Department of Natural Resources)

More Safe Paddling Tips (Ohio Department of Natural Resources)

How to Take Your Dog Boating (Ohio Department of Natural Resources)

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