Is It Safe To Kayak In Flood Water

Before floating your kayak, it’s crucial to be aware of high-water levels. River dynamics vary because of this, and in certain areas, you’ll see the effects of high water when people are shooting whitewater rapids. However, with spring runoff and extra water from big storms, you can face flooded rivers with far higher water levels than they usually do.

So, around spring or early summer, you need to be wary of high water from seasonal floods. One question often asked by anyone apart from an experienced kayaker is, can you kayak when water levels have risen, or is it safe to kayak in flood water?

In our guide, you can learn more about paddling in this hazardous water. You never know what’s underneath the surface and being carried down the river, and all of these could cause you to capsize. By the end, you’ll learn more about the hazards and why you always need a personal flotation device when paddling in lakes or swollen rivers. (Learn How To Lock A Kayak)

Guide in Kayaking In Flood Water

Is It Safe To Kayak After Heavy Rain?

It is incredibly upsetting to observe people on flooded streams and rivers after places have been besieged by springtime heavy rains and flood waters fill them. This is especially true for those who are familiar with kayaks and canoes.

It’s extremely dangerous, and many novice kayakers get confused since the terrain seems open and level. But water like this can fool you and get you into trouble.

The rapid speed at which flood water transports them is what initially confuses people. Because of your increased velocity, your reaction time slows down as you travel at a quicker rate.

Boaters can quickly get into problems because the nearby rivers are at a flood stage.

The ability to see obstacles and jagged rocks that are typically visible are submerged in creeks by the swiftly moving water is gone.

Even if you drop anchor, you can still end up underneath the surface. In addition, there is a slim probability that you can swim to safety.

The kind of kayak a kayaker is using is another problem. Since traditional kayaks are fully open, they will soon fill with water if they capsize in fast-moving waters.

These kayaks are suitable for beginners and modest lake kayaking.
A “sit-on-top” kayak is preferable for inexperienced kayakers or anglers.

They are incredibly user-friendly and easy to enter and exit. In addition, you are not confined within the boat since you sit above the water.

The life jacket should be always worn by paddlers on the water, even though the law requires that it be in the boat.

You can also get a life jacket designed explicitly for kayaking; this item of safety equipment has big armholes and doesn’t ride up on the paddler when it comes into contact with the water. (Learn How To Store A Kayak In A Garage)

Stay Safe Paddling In Dangerous Rivers

To listen to the river, you don’t have to be extraordinary. Many kayakers learn how to read their surroundings. One of the first signs is that with water moving fast, you lose stability.

Debris like logs, sticks, or fallen trees can be present after storms and the rivers and creeks are flooded.
Before entering any area, glance around to see whether there are any “strainers” or trees and branches that could land you or any other paddler in trouble.

Smart Kayakers Don’t Paddle Alone

Being alone while paddling in high water channels is pleasant but paddling with simply the sound of nature is always better.

On the water, emergencies occur frequently, and the river is as predictable as the river itself.

At least let someone know where you will drop in and get out if you’re intent on paddling high water alone.

It makes it far easier for rescue services to search one area than the entire course of the river should anything go wrong while you are paddling.

Don’t Flip On Purpose or By Accident

You don’t want to roll because of an issue, yet if you decide to practice your rolls while paddling, you could end up in trouble.

The chances of catching rocks or debris are high, which could leave you trapped upside down, gasping for air.

Kayaking in Flooded Water

Think Safety

Before leaving for your paddle trip, be sure to pack an emergency dry bag. Then, in case tragedy may strike, at least you will be prepared. An extra set of dry clothes is something you should always take on a trip.

Also, an emergency poncho, water, a whistle, solar blanket, matches or a lighter, and emergency food are always great to have. Finally, throw in a small camp stove if your kayak has enough compartments. Learning how to make a stove out of an aluminum can is even better.

Be sure to include emergency dry bags before setting off paddling across lakes and down rivers. Then, at least you’ll be ready if tragedy strikes.

You can’t beat having something warm and dry to wear after you’ve been in the water, or the air temperature is close to freezing. Cooking equipment or other stuff for protection is advisable. (Read Kayak Storage Ideas Outside)

Watch Out For Authorities

Paddling on rivers and creeks with high water marks is prohibited by law in many states. There could be a sizable fine if you are found in violation of those rules.

It is preferable to follow the law and not paddle when the weather has been hazardous.

Just keep in mind that the goal of law enforcement is to keep you alive, not ruin your fun. So, keep safety in mind if paddling that day is necessary. Always remember to “stay out” if you’re unsure.

Riding the Flood?

Don’t go out on a boat to paddle while the dangerous waters are at flood stage is the finest piece of kayaking advice.

The “flood stage” is what? The point at which the surface of a river, creek, or other body of water has risen to a height adequate to cause harm and danger.

Even if it is unusually high, whether the course of a river, creek, or other body of water is technically flooding toward the “flood stage.”

The knowledge is derived from the laboriously gained, frequently unfavorable experiences of boaters and others.

We’re giving it to you and hope you won’t risk it and have to learn the hard way.

In boating accidents, a few of us have lost friends and acquaintances.

The Dangers of ‘Flood Stage’ Kayaking

Water Debris

The streamside junk is swept underwater into the flow by the rising flood. Trees, fence posts, and other things fall into the water when banks are cut. There may be many alien objects on the run with you.


When trees and logs become stuck, they pose serious risks. They are submerged in water, but you and your boat won’t be. You can stay away from them in more significant streams.

A strainer can stop a smaller stream; high water can generate or intensify serious entrapment risks like undercut rocks and boulder sieves.

Low Head Dams

A low head or “run of the river” dam is utilized to increase the level of a stream. On the downstream side, water flows over the dam’s lip, creating a complete reversal that can be challenging to impossible to escape. They can be quite potent at high flows but hazardous at any flow.

Bridge Abutments

These can obstruct the river by catching debris. Even without catching any debris, they cause enormous, side-curling waves to erupt.

Turbid Water

The muddy flow conceals a muddy water hazard that might typically be obvious.

Protecting Yourself In High Water

As we previously stated, the safest course of action while floods are flooding is to remain inside. Even so, we are aware of its allure and potential excitement.

Some streams are so small or have such a narrow watershed that only heavy rains or snowmelt are appropriate times to go boating there.

Scout such streams in advance; walk the run and search for barriers, landmarks, and portages.

So, if you decide to try it, here are some tips for making it as secure as possible:

Avoid boating alone. That is always sound counsel. However, remember that while the group’s assistance is beneficial, your safety comes first.

Use the same mentality when deciding whether to boat in an area of water, as you should always dress for the swim. If you look at it, don’t go boating in it and think, “I wouldn’t swim in that.”

Always wear a proper life jacket. This should be obvious, but we’ll mention it anyway.
As we have stated, a helmet is strongly advised.

It’s essential to wear the proper protective clothing, especially in cold water. For assistance choosing the appropriate gear, read Cold Water Gear and Layering for Cold Water Boating.

A few pieces of dry clothing and an item like the SOL Escape Bivy Sac can save your life.

If you are separated from your boat, think about keeping some supplies like energy bars and a butane lighter (or other fire-making tools) with you.

Enroll in first aid and CPR classes, and don’t forget your medical supplies; if you pull someone from the water drowning, you can at least help save them. (Learn How To Set Up A Pulley System To Lift A Kayak)

Potential Dangers in Kayaking in Flood

Bring extras of any equipment that is necessary for your safety and the trip’s success, such as extra paddles or oars.

a Kayak Un-Pin Kit or additional raft-appropriate supplies In difficult sailing circumstances, the Z-Drag Kit is essential safety equipment to bring along.

Swiftwater rescue training is beneficial for anyone who navigates whitewater, but it is particularly relevant for boaters in challenging circumstances. The Safety and Rescue Discussion Group article offers guidance on where to acquire training and other helpful tips.

Never leave without telling someone where you’re going and when you expect to return. There is someone to notify and direct emergency responders if you have an emergency and are running late.

Think about having a tool on you to contact emergency services. More people are getting cell phone coverage.

A VHF or UHF radio could be suitable in some locations. In addition, personal locator beacons and satellite phones provide kayakers with excellent safety tools.

Is It Safe To Kayak in Flood Water