Be Safe on the River

Wear a life jacket on the river

While on the river personal flotation devices (PFDs or life jackets) must be worn because dangerous situations can develop quickly. Information about how to pick out the perfect PFD is provided in the section "the right pfd for you."

Children playing on sandbars or on the edge of the river should always wear a life jacket and be near an adult, even if you are just walking near the river and not boating. Banks and sandbars in some areas can be undercut, especially at high water, and this can cause safety concerns. You can use our Kids 4 the Kaw safety page to help children learn how to put on a PFD and why its important that they wear one.
We recommend that you float with others, and if you float with a group it is safest if you stay together. If you are a novice boater you should go on a Friends of the Kaw float trip or go with an outfitter to learn paddling skills and safety, as well as how to navigate the Kansas River.

Be aware that it will take some muscle power to paddle down the Kaw and you should be in good health and physically in shape before heading out on the river. 

Stay away from trees and other objects in the river

Trees and other objects can be dangerous in flowing water. Stay away from them; water currents can pull you against stationary objects in the river with greater force than you might expect. Along the banks fishermen leave hooks on fishing lines tied to trees and stumps; stay away from these hanging fishing lines or you may end up caught on a fishhook.


Be careful not to tip your canoe

The most common way to tip a canoe is when you are getting in and out- use extra caution and take a look at our canoe safety page. Children should be especially careful, and you can use our Kids 4 the Kaw safety page to help them learn to get in and out of a canoe without taking a spill.
The Kansas River is shallow in most areas at normal flows. If you fall out of your boat try to stand up; if you find yourself in deep water hold on to your boat and float down river until you can stand up. If you cannot stay with your boat swim hard to shore; try to avoid swimming against the current if possible so that you avoid tiring yourself out unnecessarily. Keep your feet up near the surface and stay away from downed trees in the water. Keeping your feet up is important so that you can be sure that your feet and legs do not become trapped on an underwater snag. If someone offers you help, hang on to their boat and let them pull you to shore- Do Not try to climb into their boat because you might flip them.
When recreating in raw water (any ocean, lake, river or stream) always sanitize your hands before eating to kill harmful bacteria.


What to bring on the river:

  • Things that you should have with you on the river: Water, lunch, hand sanitizer, cell phone in waterproof bag, change of dry clothes, life jacket, extra paddle, first aid kit, sunscreen, hat, rain jacket.
  • Things you might want on the river: Camera & binoculars (in waterproof bag), animal and plant identification guides.
  • Things to leave behind: Radios, video games, jewelry and other things you don't want to lose.
Put everything you can in plastic bags and tie them into your boat so that if you flip you won't lose anything. Please do not litter, many of the sandbars you will find will be clean and beautiful, please leave them that way so that others can enjoy them.

More information, including maps to boat ramps, information on weather and water levels, and river hazards can be found on the Friends of the Kaw main website.