paddling the river

Simple Tips for Paddling in the Western United States

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If you’re looking to get started kayaking, rafting, or canoeing, there really isn’t any better place than the western United States.  Some of the best rivers in the world are located in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California.  Trips can last anywhere from hours to weeks.  If you’re looking to do any overnight trips, there are a few things you should know before you hit the river.  Being able to paddle these rivers isn’t all you’re going to have to conquer to have a successful paddling trip.

Safety is of the utmost importance, especially on the river.  Even though the temperatures may be upwards of 100 degrees in some of these states, the water may be much cooler.  Certain rivers, such as the Colorado River that is fed from Lake Powell, averages a temperature just over 45 degrees.  In water this cold, hypothermia can set in extremely quickly.  It’s important to recognize that air temperatures can have negligible impacts on water temperatures, no matter what river you’re looking at.


With this in mind, know that on certain rivers and routes, getting wet is inevitable.  It’s important that all of your essential gear stays dry.  Make sure that all electronics are in in waterproof bags.  Consider leaving your really nice electronic gear at home and investing in cheaper models just in case.  Water resistant bags are often not good enough to keep your important items dry.  Instead, opt for guaranteed water proof bags.  Your tent and sleeping bags are often the most important items to keep dry, so don’t cut any corners here.  Make sure you have an extra change of clothing to change into at night, as nights may get cold.


However, depending on the time of year, nights may not get as cold as expected.  In fact, it can sometimes get so stifling hot that you need to sleep outside of your tent.  If you choose to do this, however, watch out for scorpions that come out after the sun goes down.  Bring an extra pair of sandals to wear around camp.  Scorpions will often crawl into boots and shoes during the night, so another pair of footwear to slip on in the night is a great idea.  Additionally, wear a pair of loose fitting gloves while sleeping if you choose to sleep outside of your tent.  Most scorpions aren’t life threatening, though their stings can be extremely painful, and the last thing you want to do is slap one in your sleep.


There’s no way to avoid sand while out on these rivers.  Bring extra plastic bags or cases to keep your electronics in.  If you don’t, fine particles of sand can get into your gear and damage it.  If you’re one who absolutely hates sand, going out on these rivers may not be for you.  It’ll get into everything:  your pack, gear, shoes, and socks.  Also know that almost all of your gear will eventually be colored brown by the muddy water you’re paddling through.
If you think you can handle the scorpions, extreme heat differences, cold water temperatures, and the unending grind of sand, you may be ready for a trip on western United States rivers.  Whether you’re planning on an afternoon excursion or planning to paddle the whole river, know what you’re getting yourself into.

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