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A paddle trip downriver can include these river hazards.

  • Low-head dams: These structures are difficult to see and can trap paddlers. Consult a map of the river before your trip and know where dams are located. Always carry your craft around them.
  • Rapids: When approaching rapids, go ashore well upstream and check them out before continuing. If you see dangerous conditions, carry your craft around them.
  • Strainers: These river obstructions allow water to flow through but block boats and could throw you overboard and damage or trap your craft. Strainers may include overhanging branches, logjams, or flooded islands. Strainers are also notorious for causing death by drowning.

Understanding River Characteristics

  • Rivers are constantly changing. It's up to you to be familiar with these changes.
  • In a river without obstructions, the slowest moving water is near the bottom and the fastest is near the surface.
  • Eddies are created behind an obstruction as water fills in the void created by the obstruction. The current behind an eddy is actually moving upstream. Skilled paddlers use eddies as a place to stop and rest.
  • Hydraulics occur as water flows over an obstruction and a slight depression forms behind it. Downstream water attempts to fill this void, creating an upstream flow toward the obstruction. A low-head dam is a perfect and deadly example of a hydraulic. Avoid hydraulics altogether.