Prepping for the Paddling Season

By Bill Deaton

If there’s one activity that has skyrocketed since the pandemic began, it’s kayaking. Literally, stores sold out of boats last summer as many first timers took to the water. Not surprising, many newcomers are still not all-checked-out on rules and safety as evident in the numerous posts I see daily on various kayaking forums and social media. May is the start of prime-time paddling in PA so it’s a good time to address some things.

There are a number of rules and suggestions that apply to everyone, everywhere:

  • If using a launch provided by the PA Fish & Boat Commission or DCNR all non-motorized watercraft, including paddleboards, must have a launch permit from either of these agencies.
  • A Type I, II, III, or V Personal Floatation Device must be on board for each person, and all persons age 12 and younger must wear one on the water at all times. It’s a good idea for all paddlers to wear one too! Attach a whistle for added safety.
  • Wear clothing that dries quickly and bring clothes to protect from wind, rain, and sun.
  • Sunscreen, water, snacks, insect repellant, sunglasses, and a hat should be in your inventory.
  • Check the weather and let someone know your plan.

On lakes and ponds:

  • Read all signs at the launch. They may include information of restricted areas, invasive species, and special regulations.
  • Wear bright colors so you are visible to motorboaters.
  • Have the equipment and know how to right and re-enter your boat should you capsize.

On rivers and creeks:

  • Check current and predicted water levels before setting out.
  • Be familiar with the rules and suggestions pertaining to water levels for that waterway.
  • Know how to read and navigate around obstacles and through rapids.
  • Wear shoes or sport sandals that offer protection and stability in the event you need to walk the boat through shallow water.

By no means is this a complete list of safety and suggestions. Consult the websites for the PA Fish & Boat Commission and the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River for more information. Stay safe and enjoy the waters!