Always wear a personal flotation device (PFD, aka life jacket) while on or along the water. Especially when water temperatures are cold or when currents are swift.
- Immersion in cold waters can quickly result in lowering of core body temperature, leading to inability to move, hypothermia and drowning. Wearing a PFD can prevent drowning.
- Falling in to swift currents can easily result in being pulled and kept under water and collisions with rocks, logs and other objects causing injury. A PFD can prevent drowning. A helmet is strong recommended when paddling in whitewater and other swift currents.
State law requires all children under 12 to wear a PFD while on a watercraft.
- State law also requires all people on a pleasure vessel less than 21 feet long to wear a PFD between November 1 and May 1.
- Large waves can form on large waters bodies with steady winds. Heavy winds can create large waves on small and medium-sized water bodies. Know your abilities and the forecast for wind before setting out.
- Turn you canoe or kayak to point into large waves (or wakes from motorboats) to prevent being overturned
- Find shelter on shore when you hear thunder.
- Hire a guide if you are unsure if your skill levels meet the challenges of paddling.
- See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association for information on outdoor guides.
- Additional information on Outdoor Safety
- For more information about paddling requirements & paddling safety, visit the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historical Preservation (OPRHP) boating page.
- When paddling in waters with motorboats:
- Keep close to the shorelines and out of the channels to allow safe passage of motorboats; and
- Groups should paddle behind one another not abreast to prevent blocking passage of motorboats and other paddlers
- Do not block carries (portage trails), put-in or take out sites with your watercraft or gear.
- Load your gear out of the way of others who are ready to launch or retrieve
- Watch ahead when portaging, so you don't run into others using the portage trail.
- Speak quietly to not disturb others, sound carries across water.
Protect the Lands & Waters
- Know the rules of the lands & waters you will be recreating on
- Know the principles of Leave No Trace.
- Carry out what you carry in.
- Pack all gear, supplies, clothing and food in waterproof bags which is strapped or secured to the kayak, canoe or raft. If you overturn you will be able to retrieve your belongings and not litter the water.