LINCOLN, Neb. – Warming weather brings out paddlers looking to enjoy a day on the water. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reminds them to keep safety their top priority.
Even though air temperatures quickly can warm this time of year, Nebraska’s waters still are relatively cold. And the lakes and rivers often are considered milder waters, which can jade the perception of operators of paddle craft.
The following are tips to stay safe when out on a paddling adventure:
Wear a life jacket – In Nebraska, every vessel, except sailboards, must carry a wearable life jacket for each person on board, and every person on board age 12 and under must wear a life jacket.
Paddle in pairs or with a group – Paddling in a group reduces the risk to any individual in the event of an emergency.
Avoid extremes of water and weather – Water temperature is a key factor in having a safe paddle trip. Treat any water temperature below 70 degrees with caution by wearing a wet or dry suit to reduce your risk for hypothermia. Keep in mind, Nebraska’s weather also can change quickly. It is important to reschedule your trip if there is potential for severe weather..
Check USGS gauges – The U.S. Geological Survey’s website has streamflow data on the many Nebraska rivers that have gauges. This is helpful, real-time depth and discharge information that can be used to judge if a river is too high or too low to safely paddle. Visit waterdata.usgs.gov/ne/nwis/rt.
Tell others your plan – Give friends or family your itinerary so they know where you will be and when to expect you back.
Training – It’s always a great idea to seek out training from a qualified paddling instructor. An instructor can provide valuable skills that could keep your trip going from an exciting adventure to a dire emergency.
For paddling trip ideas and more information, visit outdoornebraska.gov/watertrails.
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