Spend time on our waterways – with appropriate safety in mind

By Julie L Rhodes / Collective impact director, Reconnecting to Our Waterways

Whether spending time along our waterways or paddling a canoe or kayak on the river or creek, there is much fun to be had in these natural spaces. But the waterways demand a healthy respect to make sure a fun day doesn’t end in tragedy.

Reconnecting to Our Waterways recently partnered with local organizations to host a webinar as part of its In the Know with ROW series to share resources and information that help you find fun along the waterways while remaining safe this summer. Here are some tips from White River Canoe Co. to make sure you are planning for and executing a day out on the water:

Always wear your life jacket. Wear a properly fitting U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times on the water.

* Don’t drink while paddling. Avoid alcohol, which impairs the coordination and balance you need to control a canoe or kayak.

* Stay low. Learn how to enter and exit your boat safely and stay low in your boat when possible. Most paddlesport-related drownings are the result of capsizing.

* Keep your balance. Don’t overload your boat. Distribute passengers, secure gear evenly and low.

* Practice the wet exit. Learn how to get out of, hang on to, right, and re-enter your capsized boat.

* Don’t get left in the cold. Dress for the weather conditions and be prepared for coldwater immersion. Hypothermia is a danger any time of year.

* Plan ahead. Know the water you’re paddling, plan your day of paddling, and file a float plan so that someone knows where to find you and when you plan to return.

* Never paddle alone. Companions can come to your aid if you get in trouble. New paddlers should paddle with someone more experienced. It’s a great way to learn and remain safe if there’s a mishap.

* Be in command. Know how to move your boat forward, back, and sideways, and how to stop using paddle strokes. Watch ahead for hazards like undercut rocks, bridge pilings, large branches and trees, big drop-offs, or other boats.

* Learn about your boat. Consider taking a canoe or kayak safety class.

Find out more about safety and how to book a float or paddle with this Noblesville-based company at: https://whiterivercanoe.com/water-safety.

There is also plenty of fun to be had on our waterways in Indianapolis. Here’s a few ideas for planning a day out on the waterways this summer:

* Rent a kayak or a swan pedal boat along the downtown section of the Central Canal with Wheel of Fun Rentals: https://wheelfunrentals.com/in/indianapolis/canal-walk. They also rent equipment at Eagle Creek Park: https://wheelfunrentals.com/in/indianapolis/eagle-creek-outfitters.

* Go to River School and learn to be a volunteer river raft guides with Friends of the White River: https://friendsofwhiteriver.org/current-projects/river-school.

*o If you’ve fallen in love with canoeing or kayaking, you might be ready to purchase your own watercraft from Rusted Moon Outfitters: https://rustedmoonindy.com

Here are a few more resources to help you stay safe:

* White River Alliance provides live water conditions: https://thewhiteriveralliance.org/about-the-river/live-conditions.

* Download and use the Friends of White River interactive map app to find places and conditions for paddling on the White River, and to identify and avoid low-head dam dangers: https://friendsofwhiteriver.org/2015/07/get-our-new-interactive-app.

Finally, here are some ways to get engaged in our waterways to connect, improve and enjoy this important community resource:

* ROW Waterway Committee: Our geography-based waterway committees of like-minded individuals who connect and host events dedicated to improving Indianapolis’ waterway quality and connecting community to the waterway: www.ourwaterways.org.

* Hoosier Canoe and Kayak Club: Membership group that organizes paddling events for canoers and layers to enjoy along Indiana’s waterways. Training sessions, skills training, indoorp practice, and more: https://www.hoosiercanoeclub.org.

* Indiana Kayakers: A kayaking and canoeing club. Organize several paddling, service, and social events along Indiana’s rivers, streams, and lakes: https://www.meetup.com/IYAK-Indiana-Kayakers.

No matter how you want to connect, be sure to plan ahead, understand conditions, take precautions, and have a fun and safe time exploring the beauty and recreation of our waterways.

PHOTO ABOVE: Greg Harger and Lisa Milton kayak the White River. They are the volunteer co-chairs of the White River Committee of Reconnecting to Our Waterways.