The canoe is one of the oldest means of water travel. These boats have remained virtually unchanged in design for thousands of years. But don't let a canoe's simplicity fool you. As easy as it may seem to leisurely paddle a canoe, a journey can quickly become dangerous if appropriate safety guidelines are overlooked.
You can minimize your risk of danger by being smart about where and when you canoe. Choose a lake or river that is appropriate for your skill level. Try to avoid high water (it makes a river run faster), high winds and storms. And don't go out alone -- there's safety in numbers. It is recommended that you canoe with a minimum of two boats.
Before you even step into your canoe, make sure it is in good condition and that you take along the following items:
Even if you are experienced and careful, it is still possible that you may tip. To avoid having a canoe tipping turn into a disaster tie all equipment to your canoe – put your equipment into a waterproof bag to keep it dry and tie it to one of the center beams in the canoe so that you don’t lose everything.
To get into your canoe, have someone hold it steady. As you step in, bend your knees and grab the sides of the canoe for balance. Walk to your seat along the center of the boat. Remember to remain in your seat. The slightest shift of weight can make a canoe tip. It is important to keep your load balanced. Avoid sudden movements or rocking from side to side.
Once you are paddling wearing a PFD is an absolute must, particularly considering how unstable a canoe is and the risk of drowning and hypothermia. Keep your shoes on to avoid slipping or stepping on sharp objects near shore.
If your canoe does tip over, don't panic. Your canoe will float even if its full of water, and you can wait until you can get to shore to empty it. Stay with your canoe and paddle or push it toward the shore. When you get to shallow water, flip the canoe with the help of another person and carefully climb back in.
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.