North Iowa Outdoors: Eager Paddlers Need to Take Extra Precautions to Stay Safe

We’ve had some warmer days recently in the state, but the Iowa Department of Natural Resources River Programs Outreach Coordinator says we aren’t to the free paddling days of summer just yet. Todd Robertson says you should wait a bit before getting out the kayak or canoe.

He says a safe level means you aren’t in danger by simply going into the water.

He says things will warm up soon enough.

He says now is a good time to check the buckles and zippers and check for holes in life jackets. Many people are buying plastic molded kayaks as they are relatively inexpensive. Robertson says they should be checked out too.

When the water does warm up, he says you should wear your life jacket.

And Robertson says you should file a float plan before heading out so friends and family know where you are supposed to be if something should happen.

Review these simple safety tips before you head out on the water.

  • Check your canoe or kayak for any needed repairs or maintenance after being stored for several months. Look for holes and leaks, make sure all hatch lids fit snug and securely and check your paddle blades for signs of cracking or splitting.
  • Wear your lifejacket at all times when underway. Dust off your life jacket and make sure all buckles and zippers work properly and look for holes and tears. Replace the life jacket if it has damage that cannot be repaired. Wear a life jacket at all times while on the water, regardless of your swimming ability. Not only do they help keep your head above water, but they also help maintain warmth.
  • Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. Plan as if you were to be in the water at some point because “paddlers are just in between swims.” A wet suit or dry suit is a must. Do not wear cotton clothing—it fails to insulate when wet. Choose synthetics or wool. Dress in layers so you can peel a layer off if overheated.
  • Always bring along a dry bag with a complete set of extra clothes you can change into if you get wet, a first-aid kit and a protected cell phone or weather radio. Get out of wet, cold clothing as soon as possible. Pack plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Let a friend or loved one know where you are going and when you are expected to return. It will be easier to find you if you need help.

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