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Trip Preparation & Planning

When getting ready to schedule your next trip, be sure to use the following safety guidelines to help ensure a safe and enjoyable excursion:

Pre-Trip Planning

  • Know the waters to be paddled. River and coastal guide books and topographic maps are valuable references in trip planning. Plan alternate routes
  • Set-up a shuttle. Calculate the distance and time. Consider stops and a lunch break, along with put in and take out locations
  • Equipment - What you take with you on a trip is all that you have to survive and rescue yourself. This includes water, food, maps and charts, rescue equipment and extra clothes
  • File a Float Plan with someone who will notify others if you don't return on time
  • Paddle within your, and your group's, abilities and limits

On Water Behavior and Etiquette

  • Be a competent swimmer with the ability to handle oneself underwater, on moving water, and in surf or current
  • Have a properly fitted lifejacket (Personal Flotation Device - PFD), and WEAR IT!
  • Keep the craft under control. Do not enter a rapid unless reasonably sure you can navigate it or swim the entire rapid in case you capsize
  • Keep a lookout for hazards and avoid them. Watch for fog, especially on coastal waters
  • Know your emotional and physical limitations
  • Group members need to constantly assess the behavior of others in their group
  • Respect the rights of anglers and land owners when paddling

Know the Conditions

For Flatwater

  • Remember to watch for water and weather changes - beware of fog
  • Keep an eye out for other boat traffic
  • Pay attention to all safety warnings
  • Be sure you are visible

For Whitewater and Rivers

  • Stay on the inside of bends - Beware of strainers! Strainers are fallen trees; bridge pilings, undercut rocks or anything else that allows the current to flow through it while holding you. Strainers are deadly
  • Walk around low-head dams
  • Watch for and avoid hydraulics (water recirculating back on itself)
  • If in doubt, get out and scout!

For Coastal Areas

  • Stay close to shore
  • As you travel away from shelter, make sure you have the necessary skills to travel back
  • Watch conditions for winds and fog
  • Understand wave height, wind speed (Beaufort Scale), fetch and how it will impact your travel
  • Stay aware of all boat traffic and traffic patterns
  • Learn re-entry techniques BEFORE you need them, know how to re-enter your boat and how to assist others back into their craft
  • Stay apprised of tidal currents and their affects on you and your boat
  • Watch for landing in surf or passing through the surf zone to shore
ACA Mission

Founded in 1880, The American Canoe Association (ACA) is a national nonprofit organization serving the broader paddling public by providing education related to all aspects of paddling; stewardship support to help protect paddling environments; and sanctioning of programs and events to promote paddlesport competition, exploration and recreation.

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Contact Us
ACA | Canoe-Kayak-SUP-Raft-Rescue
503 Sophia St. Suite 100
Fredericksburg, VA 22401
Phone: 540-907-4460
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