Spring is here, we can hear it. The rivers are raging and ready to be paddled. Lakes are great for summer and fall paddling up North, but rivers can be an adventure when the water levels are higher. There are some rivers that are only navigable in the spring. Remember, all rivers are very dangerous at high water levels, and it is important to always “get out and scout.” Even if you have been on the river many times, new obstructions could appear over the long winter.
First thing’s first, grab a friend, a river canoe or kayaks, and start planning! Day trips are great, but a day (or three) on the river are even better. Bring along your camping gear and a sturdy canoe paddle, like a Bending Branches paddle that has a Rockgard® tip. You can start by asking friends for river paddling ideas, ask at a local specialized outdoor shop, or grab a guide book. The books by Big Earth Publishing are very detailed and loaded with great advice, http://www.bigearthpublishing.com/book-tag/water-sports/.
Once you have planned on a river and a route, there are a few more details to think about. Make sure you have a good map – one that clearly identifies rapids, bridges, other streams, and campsites. When in doubt of where to paddle (around islands or bogs), follow the strongest flow. Rapids are classified from Class I – Class VI (1-6). Class 1 and 2 rapids can be fun to paddle after scouting. Class 3 should only be attempted by experienced paddlers and Class 4 -6 should be portaged.
The next step is to find a shuttle or arrange a ride so you can get back to your entry point easily. For day trips, it is common to shuttle one vehicle to the take out point to allow shuttling back and forth. Overnight or extended trips will require a shuttle.
Weather will be a huge factor in your trip! Spring runoff as well as the weather can be unpredictable. Make sure you dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. If the water temperature and the air temperature don’t add up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, put on a dry suit. Additionally, always carry a change of clothes in a dry bag that can be attached to your canoe or kayak. The USGS.gov website has water level information taken from gauges along the river. Your state’s DNR and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) also have useful information online on the river you are about to paddle.
Make sure you are conscience of private property laws along the river, each state is unique. Your boat should also be properly registered if applicable.
Remember to leave no trace and take only pictures. Happy Paddling!