An Ethical Code for Kayakers

photo of man and woman on kayak paddlings

Paddling Ethics for Kayaking

Developing a personal code of ethics takes more than reviewing someone else’s list of recommendations. It takes personal commitment, time on the water, and thoughtful analysis of new ideas or experiences. Take these recommendations with a grain of salt, be skeptical and adopt them through the lens of your own experience and personal success. Most of all, share what works with others and preserve the waterfront for future use by paddlers that have yet to come.

Pre-Trip Planning

You are the primary person available to ensure your own safety. Good pre-trip planning will reflect this responsibility.

  • Be aware of regulations and special concerns that apply to the area to be traveled
  • Be prepared for extreme weather conditions, natural hazards, and common emergencies
  • Schedule trips to avoid high periods of use

Boating Safety 

Kayaks operate under the same safety regulations that apply to other vessels.

  • Kayaks are difficult for powerboats to see. Make an effort to be seen
  • Carry boating safety gear, a survival kitmedical kit and wear your PFD
  • File a float plan with someone you trust

Environmental Impacts

Every action we take as paddlers has some effect on the environment. The key is to lessen these impacts whenever possible.

  • Keep group sizes small
  • Campfires, especially in high use areas, leave long-term scars on the land. Use a camping stove for cooking and a lantern for lighting your campsite
  • In areas with established fire rings, keep your fire within facilities provided
  • Practice fire safety and ensure fires are completely out before leaving camp
  • Repackage food and minimize the amount of packing material brought along on a trip
  • Try to camp on durable surfaces and use existing campsites
  • Camp at least 200 feet (60 meters) away from lake shores, stream banks and riparian areas
  • Wash camp dishes at least 200 feet (60 meters) away from water bodies. Use biodegradable soap
  • Take your trash home with you for proper disposal, pack it in – pack it out
  • Depose of human waster responsibly. Individuals can deposit waste in catholes located at least 200 feet (60 meters) away from the water. Larger groups should carry portable facilities and pack wastes out
  • Practice Clean Boating

Respect Wildlife 

Guidelines are available for viewing marine mammals from organizations like the Sea Grant College Program and NOAA.

  • Avoid loud sounds and noises
  • Avoid abrupt changes in direction
  • Watch wildlife from a distance. Back off if you observe any signs of nervousness
  • Keep pets under control or leave them home
  • Store food securely and out of reach of animals
  • Buy a good pair of binoculars to view wildlife from a safer distance
  • Avoid paddling too near bird colonies, sea lion and seal haulouts, and marine mammals in the water

Consideration for Others 

Consider the golden rule in your contacts with others in the outdoors.

  • Respect private property
  • Be courteous to other visitors and protect their experiences
  • Help fellow paddlers in difficulty
  • Remember powerboats and kayaks share the same waters

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