Know your limits when kayaking in a river


LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — While kayaking in a river can be fun for some people, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it can be extremely dangerous, not just for yourself, but for anyone who might have to come and rescue you.

Fast currents make kayaking in a river enticing for some thrill seekers. But Whitewater Kayak Instructor Oren Kennedy says unless you’ve received training, it’s best to stay away, because it requires a different skill set than kayaking on a lake.

“The water is moving, it will not give you the same kind of stability you’ll see on a lake,” he said.

It also requires more safety equipment, in addition to a life jacket.

“I have a full getup: spray skirt to keep water out of the kayak, flotation bags,” Kennedy said. “The general public, especially if you’re in a recreational boat, doesn’t have this kind of equipment.”

And it’s not just the currents that pose a danger, it’s dams as well. Kennedy said if you go over a dam, you could be pulled underwater and trapped there.

“Avoid at all costs, even approaching from the bottom,” he said. “If a person does go over the dam, basically the only thing that can be done is hope to get out.”

In the case of the dam near the Brenke Fish Ladder in Lansing, there is a dock a few yards away where kayakers can get out. Kennedy said there was a warning sign just before the dam, but it was taken down by a tree in the recent floods.

Lansing Assistant Fire Chief Matthew Jenkins said if you do venture out, take a life jacket, know your limitations and tell someone where you’re going and how long you expect to be there. He said caution is key, because if you do need to be rescued, it also puts responders in danger.

“Even though we have equipment to protect us, our boat could tip over, we could get entangled in debris,” Jenkins said “It’s very dangerous for everyone involved.”

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