It’s been a chilly winter in Pennsylvania, but wonderful spring weather will be here soon! We’re already itching for the perfect warm day to take advantage of the very thing we were named for – our river towns’ rivers. Western Pennsylvania is full of some of the most beautiful places to kayak.
New and experienced paddlers alike, however, would do well to prepare for the season by brushing up on kayaking safety tips. Emergencies and accidents can happen to anyone, so knowing how to prevent them is key to keeping your paddling adventures safe, warm and minimally dripping wet!
- Always wear a PFD. A PFD, or Personal Flotation Device, is your first line of defense should you fall out of your kayak somehow. Don’t try to argue your way out of wearing one because you’re a good swimmer, either! A bad spill could make it hard for you to swim. Both regular life jackets and kayak-specific life jackets will get the job done, so take the time to decide which one will be more comfortable (and fits better) during your paddle.
- Respect your limits. While kayaking is a great way to get moving, you should never push yourself on the water the way you might in a gym. Respect your limits and make sure that you plan on ending your paddle before you’re too tired to continue. Also, never venture into a body of water that you cannot comfortably navigate. (NOTE: The ideal kayaking environment has protection from wind and waves, a good access point for launching and landing, lots of places to go ashore, and minimal motorized boat traffic.)
- Wait for some sun. Spring and summer days in western Pennsylvania can be beautiful! They can also be dark, stormy, and dangerous. Always check the forecast leading up to your paddle – and reschedule as needed. Your safety comes first!
- Dress appropriately. The key to a great day on the water is what you wear. Rule 1: never wear cotton while paddling – it dries very slowly and won’t be comfortable if you hit a splash zone. Bring layers as well based on the day’s forecast and your own temperature preferences. And pack up a spare outfit for the journey home, just in case.
- Respect the water – and its traffic. Always consider the conditions of the water you want to paddle on before you hop in. If the river you want to paddle on is running particularly swiftly or is full of rough waves, spurred on by gusts of wind, it’s time to reschedule your paddle! In addition to respecting water conditions, you need to respect its traffic. A number of Pennsylvania rivers are used by boats carrying people and cargo. Large boats always have the right-of-way on the water, so it’s impossible for kayakers to avoid them for everyone’s safety. The best way to do this is to just paddle along the shoreline, no matter how tempting the middle of the river may be.
- Drink up! Kayaking, like any exercise, can lead to dehydration – especially as temperatures begin to rise. Bring a couple of water bottles on any river trip, and take breaks every 15 – 20 minutes to stay hydrated.
- Bring a buddy. We recommend kayaking with at least one other person, if not with an entire group. Kayaking is a very safe activity, but sometimes emergencies happen. Having a buddy with you will ensure that, should an accident occur, help is ready to pull you from the water.
Sticking to these tips will make your paddling adventures safer and more enjoyable. And if you’re looking for beautiful places to kayak this year, there’s no need to google “kayaking areas near me!” Our website includes an entire section dedicated to local river recreational options – just what you need to plan your next day on the water! We just ask that you leave no trash behind in our gorgeous rivers. Happy paddling!
Think that it’s too late to get out on the water this year? Think again! Many paddlers love kayaking in the fall even more than the summer. Cooler temperatures and fall foliage create a beautiful ambience for a day of paddling this time of year.
If you do have plans to paddle this season, however, you should hold off on googling for beautiful places to kayak. Before planning any water activities, it’s important to brush up on the safety tips that will keep your river trip safe, warm, and relatively dry. That means always obeying the following paddling guidelines:
- Always wear a PFD. A PFD, or Personal Flotation Device, is a critical part of any kayaking trip. PFDs are your first line of defense during an emergency spill into the water. Even the best swimmers need to wear PFDs, just in case. (Pro-tip: If you find regular lifejackets particularly uncomfortable, you can purchase a kayaking specific life jacket!)
- Don’t try to push your skill level. You should never go kayaking in an area or environment that you are not comfortable with; for example, a beginner may not want to paddle in an area with a stronger current. (Another pro-tip: the ideal kayaking environment has protection from wind and waves, a good access point for launching and landing, lots of places to go ashore, and minimal motorized boat traffic.)
- Check your paddling forecast. While autumn is a beautiful season, weather can be unpredictable. If you have plans to go kayaking, make it a priority to check the forecast the day of your trip and to dress accordingly. By the way…
- Dress appropriately. It’s important to never wear cotton while paddling, as this material dries much too slowly to keep you comfortable after a paddle-related spill or splash. It’s also important to not trust a single layer of clothing with the job of protecting you from winter temperatures and chilly river water. A base layer, and insulating layer, and an outermost waterproof layer is the minimum dress recommendation for paddlers right now. Ultimately you’re better off overdressing and removing some layers of clothes than being too cold on the water! Having a change of clothes waiting for you at the end of your trip is also always a good idea – just in case.
- Stick to the shore. River traffic is always something to watch out for while paddling. Depending on the river you paddle on, there can be a variety of bigger boats passing by at any time. These boats always have the right of way, so avoiding them and paddling along the shoreline is a safety must.
- Always check on conditions ahead of time. Rough waves and overly chilly gusts of wind are telltale signs that it’s not a good day to go paddling. If you can, it’s also best to compare the speed of the river on paddling day versus its normal flow. If the river is running faster than normal, conditions may not be optimal for a paddle.
- Stay hydrated. Temperatures may not be as brutal as they were in the summer, but kayaking is still an activity that can lead to dehydration if you’re not careful. Bring a couple of water bottles on any river trip, and take breaks every 15 – 20 minutes to stay hydrated.
- Never paddle alone. Always head out onto the water with at least one friend, if not in a group! It’s important to stay with that friend or group at all times – kayaking is a very safe activity, but sometimes emergencies happen. Having a buddy with you will ensure that, should an accident occur, help is ready to pull you from the water.
For safe, warm, and dry river adventures this fall, keep these tips in mind!
Ready to hit the water? Visit our website today for more information on boat launches and marinas, paddling trips, and guidance on navigating locks and dams. We can’t wait for you to join us on the water and to explore the gorgeous kayaking areas near you this season!
It’s a 90 minute drive outside of Pittsburgh, nestled between the Monongahela River and Cheat River. “It” being Point Marion – a town once known for its role in the Pennsylvania glass industry. Today Point Marion is filled with historic sites and architecture, not to mention trails and fishing opportunities. And in a new development that will really resonate with nature lovers, Point Marion has something else to offer this beautiful summer – kayak rentals that allow people to explore this beautiful public space via the water.
Local resident and now entrepreneur Vicky Evans has been the driving force behind this new paddling launch point. Throughout 2017, Vicky has worked under the umbrella name of Mon River Rec while tapping into the Mon River Town organization as a local resource. Vicky has a degree in recreation and parks management and a long history of working in the outdoors as a conservationist and an outdoor recreation planner, mostly with the United States Department of Agriculture. It’s safe to say she’s “always been interested in the outdoors and in helping people get out there and enjoy them as well.”
As a resident, Vicky quickly realized through her own experiences that the town’s location makes it one of the best places to kayak in western Pennsylvania. Point Marion sits near a fork in the Monongahela River, providing kayakers with more places to paddle as they journey up and down the water. That’s because in addition to splitting off into the Cheat River, the Mon meets up with Dunkard Creek near Point Marion. And both the creeks and the quiet Cheat River are traffic free – no boats, no barges, no locks…nothing but water!
Ironically, the woman behind the kayak boat launch project is relatively new to the kayaking scene. She admits to being “mostly a dry land kind of person” in the past, as her experience prior to running Mon River Rec involved more biking and hiking.
“It’s added a new dimension to my life,” Vicky says about the project. “Now instead of waking up in the morning and going for a bike ride or walking the dog, I’m calling up friends to go on the river.”
Paddling up and down the Mon has never been easier in Point Marion, thanks to the kayak rental that opened in June 2017. A reservation made through Vicky ensures that visitors can use one of her six flatwater recreational kayaks during their exploration. (No tandem kayaks are available, so paddlers must be comfortable using a single kayak.)
Here’s how it works once a date and time is set: paddlers meet Vicky in Point Marion at the kayak boat launch. She brings the boats and life jackets, and kayakers bring any extra items they may want as they explore the local creeks and paddle up and down the Mon. Vicky then sends paddlers on their way, and meets them back at the launch at the end of the trip. It’s a simple but effective system, and Vicky has been thrilled with the response to the launch so far. One person stands out in her mind – a woman who came on a Monday for a couple of hours. “The lady came back on Friday with her son, and they went out for another two hours or so,” Vicky remembers.
But perhaps the most touching part of it all is how important this project really is to former land-lover Vicky. Mon River Rec has given her a chance to work with her son and to continue – even in retirement – to help people enjoy the beautiful nature scenes around them. And she already knows what she would like to do as the project continues.
“We definitely want to be environmentally friendly,” according to Vicky. Now a regular paddler, Vicky has already come back from her adventures in boats overflowing with trash. That’s why, “In the future we definitely want to plan a clean-up paddle, because it’s important.”
Clean-up paddles would certainly add an entire new dimension to Vicky’s work – and would fit in perfectly with her current adventures in Point Marion, as there’s “just a whole new area for me to explore and make a positive difference.”
Are you interested in exploring the beautiful waterways around Point Marion? It’s easy to make a reservation and get out on the water. Contact information and pricing is listed below – so be sure to get in touch and plan your day-trip before the summer’s end!
We recommend bringing the following items with you when you kayak:
- A Hat
- A Wetbag
- Water Shoes
If you wear a bathing suit, an overshirt or tank top is recommended – the sun can be quite hot during the summer!
Be advised that all kayakers are required to be fitted with a life jacket before their paddle. All visitors will want to work with Vicky during this process to ensure that their life jacket fits and is fastened correctly, both to comply with state regulations and to guarantee that the jacket will keep paddlers afloat in the river should an accident or emergency take place during a paddle.