8 Ways to Be Prepared When Kayaking in Idaho
One of the best parts of living in Idaho, especially in Twin Falls, is there are numerous areas to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. There is good hunting, fishing, and of course great places to kayak. The snake river borders the town and is a common place to go, but there are multiple lakes, streams, and bodies of water around the area and state to pull up, plop your kayak in the water, and enjoy a day on the water, while getting some exercise, or even just floating for a bit. Most in the area are experienced kayakers and have been doing so for years and are use to the conditions of the water such as the currents and when is a good time to go and not go. For others that are not as experienced, there can be a learning curve, and there are some things to know when kayaking in the area.
Differences Between Lakes and Rivers
With so many people moving to Twin Falls and the state of Idaho in the last couple of years, many may not be familiar with kayaking on rivers. Kayaking in a lake or a bay is way different, and getting familiar and used to running water and all that comes with it is a different beast. You can kayak to the middle of a lake or bay, lay back, and read a book or nap while you float. If you do that on a river or body of water with flowing water, you will end up in an entirely different location and who knows how far you will go. Going upstream and down stream is different than dealing with the waves from a boat.
Don't Get Out of the Kayak
It may seem like common sense, but when kayaking in a river with a strong current or a deep lake, it is best to not ever get out of the kayak if you can't touch it. The water may be deeper than it appears and getting back in isn't always the easiest. Depending on your type of kayak and the weight in it, can make it easier to get back into some than others, but overall it is not a good idea to chance it, because once you are out, getting back in may not be an option.
Understand Currents and Water Flow
For someone that is used to kayaking on bays or lakes, you may not be familiar with currents and the flow of a river or stream. It is important to become familiar with them. While floating down the river or stream may be relaxing and save you from having to paddle for a bit, getting back upstream can be hard work and at the time nearly impossible, depending on the strength of the current. Lakes and bays usually have waves from other watercrafts and make navigating the water much easier than fighting flowing water.
Don't Panic in Situations
For first-timers or less experienced kayakers on a river, if you find yourself in the middle of a current and are not sure what to do, the worst thing you can do is panic. Recently a situation happened to me where I was caught in one and decided to jump out and try to swim or walk it out of the current, and it was the worst decision I could make. I was unable to get in the kayak and began to panic slightly. Staying calm and inside the kayak is your best option. The water can calm down further downstream and it is always better to go with the flow than fight it and make things worse.
Paddle Towards the Shore if in Question or Danger
When kayaking on a stream, river, lake, bay, or any body of water, if something feels off or you find yourself stuck in a current, one of the best things you can do is to try and get near the shore. Getting out of the middle of the water will allow you to control the kayak better and move against a current easier, as well as collect yourself and figure out a plan. It is a type of reset to let you gather yourself.
Keep Your Life Vest With You and Near You
By law, in Idaho, you must have a life vest on your kayak with you at all times. You will be fined if you are caught without one, but it is also good to have one in case you end up out of your kayak and caught in a current. Holding on to the kayak seems like the logical answer, but the life vest will also give you extra protection if you need it. Make sure it is easy to reach in and grab in case you find yourself in a situation that you hope to never be in.
Take a Phone and Keep it Dry
Most of us spend too much time on our phones and one of the reasons to go kayaking is to get away from technology and the stress of everyday life. Many great places to kayak in Idaho will not have phone service, but it is always smart to take your phone with you and keep it in a plastic bag or waterproof bag, just in case of emergencies. If you find yourself in trouble, floating where you don't want to, or unable to get back upstream, you can dial 911 even without service. Make sure to keep a phone on your kayak with you at all times. It is better to have one and not need it than to need one and not have it.
Don't Go Alone or Let Someone Know You Are Going
Anytime you go out hiking, swimming in a lake or river, or kayaking, it is always best to go with someone or to let someone know where you are going. It may feel childish and seem unnecessary but it is to keep you safe as well as put your friends' and family's minds at ease if anything wore to happen. If you need help, there is someone there to help or people at least know where to go if you have not returned within a significant amount of time.
While my family and I have owned kayaks for years and use them frequently, we mostly have stuck to lakes. Do not try to be a hero and do what I did if you find yourself in a current. I jumped out and thought I could swim or walk the kayak back and found it difficult to get back in. Luckily I was able to get over to the shore and get back in, but it was a struggle. Slight panic set in after two failed attempts to get back in the kayak. Make sure to stay in your kayak, and understand the water and the circumstances. Far too often, people try what I did with worse outcomes. Be safe, be smart, and enjoy your time on the water this summer.