Steps to Build a Blue Trail: Safety

Safety Information for Printed Materials and Website

The following details basic safety information that should be accessible in printed materials and websites. The American Canoe Association has a variety of boating safety information available for use on Blue Trail signs and in printed materials. Contact the American Canoe Association for more information.


  • Avoid boating alone
  • Always wear a properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket
  • Read safety information and park rules before your trip
  • Leave your route and return time with a relative or friend
  • Learn to control your boat and be able to stop the boat at any time and land on shore
  • Learn to recognize river hazards such as fallen logs, dams, and bridge piers
  • When in a group, assign a lead and sweep boat operated by experienced paddlers
  • Stay in your boat if it becomes stuck and carefully shift your weight as you push off with your paddle or pole
  • Never paddle farther from shore than you are prepared to swim
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol as they slow reflexes and impair judgment
  • In most emergencies, it is best to stay with your boat. This increases your visibility to rescue personnel


  • Review the blue trail map before setting out
  • Know where your trip will take you, where to get out, and emergency routes
  • Make sure you identify and avoid hazards marked on the map
  • Allow enough time to complete your trip within daylight hours
  • Check river conditions. A flooded river can be dangerous and should be avoided. A low river may expose logs or rocks and require carrying your boat, which may make your trip slower and more difficult.


  • Always wear a properly fitted U.S Coast Guard approved life jacket
  • Dress for the weather, prepared to get wet, and wear fast drying cloths (no cotton)
  • Bring a spare paddle or pole
  • Wear shoes with tops and sides for optimal protection. Avoid sandals
  • Always carry a noise-making device such as a horn or a whistle. A flashlight, strobe, flare, VHF radio, bright flag, and mirror are other key items to bring. Carry a cell phone, but be aware that it may not work in some areas.
  • Other essentials: a first-aid kit, plenty of drinking water, sunscreen, sunglasses, and bug repellent


  • Check weather conditions before your trip. Do not go if the weather is beyond the ability of the least experienced person in your group.
  • During your trip, stay alert to changing weather conditions
  • Get off the water during electrical storms
  • Canoe close to shore
  • Drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated