River Sherpas

Qualified Professional White Water Canoe Guides  -  PHONE:  0437 470 116

Personal Safety Guidelines For Swift Water Paddling

Boat and paddle:  Specifically designed
for white water conditions. Familiar to the
user, cockpit easily exited if capsized.
Securely fitted flotation. Sturdy paddle
without leash.

Lifejacket (PFD 2):  Correctly sized and
fitted and in good repair, worn over all
other clothing while on or near moving
water.

Paddling helmet:  Securely fitted,
approved paddling design, worn at all
times while paddling on moving water.

Wear your helmet when portaging 
through rapids in case you slip over
on the rocks.


Throw rope:  15 - 20 metres of floating 

rope without knots or loops, in a throw 

bag, available at most paddle sport retailers.

Safety whistle:  Plastic pea-less design
attached to the lifejacket with a short
lanyard. Used to attract attention. 

FOX - 40 whistle is a good option.

Clothing:  Wool or polypro garments
offer good insulation from cold water. A
windproof jacket and adequate footwear
will protect from wind chill.
Mobile phone:  Carry fully charged
on your person in a watertight pouch/
container. Consider saving safety
numbers on speed dial.

Satellite phone:  Carry fully charged

in secure waterproof drybag. Ideal

for remote areas with little to no

mobile service coverage.

Food and drink:  Energy snacks,
chocolate bars, water and a flask of hot
drink. No alcohol. If on multi-day trips,

make sure you have adequate foods &

water for the duration of your trip.

Before getting on the river 
* Check the level and condition of the river. 
   River Sherpas Weather  page has the latest river
   height gauges for the Clarence Canoe & Kayak Trail . In  
   flood it will be much faster and more dangerous.

* Safe level cut-off for canoes on the Nymboida & Mann 
   Rivers is 1.1m at the Jackadgery gauge. Above this level 
   portaging some of the rapids like Cunglebung Falls, 
   Bridal Veil Falls & New Zealand Falls can become difficult
   especially in larger groups.

* Do not attempt rivers or rapids that are beyond your 
   fitness and paddling ability. If in doubt, stay out! 

* Let someone know where you are going and what time to
   expect you back.

Paddling safely
Paddling group: Never paddle alone. Form small,
mutually supportive paddling groups. Keep each other
in sight without overcrowding. Keep sight of the person
behind, stopping if necessary. Place less skilled paddlers
in the middle of the group. Do regular head counts, never
leave anyone behind.

Leader: Sets the pace and keeps the group together.
Stop and look for options by walking along the bank if a
safe route isn’t obvious. If in doubt; don’t!

Signals: Have an agreed system of signalling that the
group understands: stop; go left; go right; all clear; and
need help.

Swift water paddling
The term ‘swift water’ or ‘white water’ is used to describe the state of a river. Heavy rains, dam releases and / or naturally fast flowing river systems along with existing foliage growth and rocks can form fast turbulent water waves, rapids and eddies in the river that are exciting and challenge even experienced paddlers.

Swift Water Hazards To Watch Out For:

Downstream & upstream "V"

Downstream ‘V’: Generally the easiest way through a rapid.

Upstream ‘V’: Indicates a shallow hazard to avoid.

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Sweepers, Strainers & Undercuts

Avoid floating or submerged logs, branches & bushes

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Stopper, Keeper or Hole

Avoid these. They act like recirculating washing machines.