An upcoming river trip can stir feelings of exhilaration and anticipation. Whether you’re an experienced paddler or a novice to the sport, planning is key to enhancing your experience while ensuring safety for everyone involved.

Let’s delve into the vital steps for your next successful river trip planning.

Tapping into Expert Knowledge: Guides and Guidebooks

Kayak River

One of the first steps in planning your river trip should be consulting with fellow boaters or scouting the internet for guidebooks related to your chosen destination. There is a multitude of local publications often favored by kayak and canoe clubs, providing insider knowledge about the best spots to paddle.

If you’re less experienced or want to ensure you’re in good hands, hiring a professional river guide or opting for a trip offered by a qualified outfitter is another smart move.

Mapping Your Way: Topo Maps and GPS

Acquiring topographic maps, or ‘topo maps,’ of your chosen river is a crucial part of preparation. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) offers these for purchase, both in traditional paper formats and digitally.

An innovative product from the USGS is the GeoPDF, a geo-registered scan of topo maps that adds spatial data, helping you visualize your route even better.

Though electronic GPS devices are handy, learning to navigate using a topo map and compass is a fail-safe strategy. Keep in mind that batteries can run out, and electronic devices can malfunction, making paper maps a reliable backup.

Stream Flow and River Gauges

River trips hinge on one crucial factor: the water flow. Hydrologists measure this at fixed points along waterways in cubic meters or cubic feet per second. Understanding these measurements is key, as the character and feasibility of running a river depend largely on its water flow. In the U.S., the National Weather Service forecasts river flow, and the USGS operates gauging sites, offering real-time data online.

An example is a gauge located on the Stikine River near Wrangell, Alaska.

Navigating the Waves: Understanding the International Scale of Difficulty

Kayak River

River classifications can vary with seasonal and daily changes in water flow but can be a useful starting point in planning. This classification scale, provided by American Whitewater, gives you an idea of what to expect, with a caveat to add a degree of difficulty for water under 10°C (50°F).

Measuring Up: Assessing Group Member Skills

Once you have gathered information about your planned route, it’s essential to evaluate the skill levels of your group. A group is only as strong as its weakest member. Be honest in assessing the knowledge, skills, and abilities of each participant, matching them appropriately to river conditions.

Ready Access and Other Considerations

When choosing your destination, consider the ease of access to the area. Hard-to-reach locations require greater logistical efforts and can delay emergency services. Be sure to allow extra time for unexpected poor weather and respect the environment by adhering to ‘No Trace’ outdoor skills and packing out your trash.

Safeguarding the Journey: Float Plans and Trip Permits

Before setting off, it’s recommended to file a float plan with a reliable contact. A float plan includes your route and schedule information so that if you’re overdue, someone knows where to start looking. Regular check-ins can further speed up rescue efforts by narrowing the search area.

Additionally, some river trips require a permit from the agency overseeing the waterway, and your float plan will form a key component of this.

With careful planning and preparation, your canoe or kayak river trip can be both exciting and safe. Your journey isn’t just about the destination; it’s about enjoying every moment on the water while respecting nature’s forces. Happy paddling!