Good practice when canoeing

Visitors kayaking on the sea past the Old Harry Rocks, Purbeck Countryside, Dorset

Spending time canoeing and kayaking is a great way to experience nature and enjoy time with friends and family. It can also be a dangerous journey if appropriate safety guidelines are overlooked.

You should be able to swim at least 50m. Ensure you are properly equipped and have the skills for the water and weather conditions you expect to encounter; canoeing alone is not recommended. Follow the navigation rules for the water you are on and always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.

Wear appropriate clothing

As well as your buoyancy aid, always wear shoes - slipways, rough terrain and river beds can be dangerous without good grip. Other canoe safe clothing includes hats, layered items that can easily be removed, spare dry clothing and a towel.

Know the weather forecast

Find out the weather forecast before you set out on your paddle and assess whether the conditions are suitable. The Met Office, BBC weather and local harbour offices will have up to date forecasts.

Tide times, navigation and events

For coastal canoe trails check the tide times and assess whether they are suitable for paddling the trail. Going up river with an incoming (flood) tide and returning with the outgoing (ebb) tide is usually easiest. Make sure you are not going to get caught on mud flats on a falling tide.

Paddlers should be aware of the rules of the road at sea and be able to identify the main channel. Always observe the navigation rules for the waterway you are travelling on. Check if there are any events/restrictions on the waters when you wish to travel.

Local environment

Familiarise yourself with the local area, its sensitive places and protected areas. Be sure to:

  • Leave the environment as you find it
  • Take your litter home with you
  • Keep noise to a minimum
  • Do not damage bank side vegetation when launching or landing (no seal launching)
  • Where possible keep to any designated paths or launching points
  • Canoe a safe distance away from wildlife
  • Rinse your kit down to prevent the spread of non-native invasive species

Check your equipment

Use this checklist to make sure you have everything you need, and check your kit is in good condition.

1. Buoyancy aid

2. Boat

3. Paddle

4. Spray deck (as required)

5. Bailer/sponge

6. Small first aid kit

7. Penknife

8. Mobile phone in waterproof bag (reception maybe limited in some areas)

9. Drinking water

10. Sun cream, hat and sunglasses

11. Light waterproof jacket

12. Footwear

13. Licence (as required)

Activities at our places

Search for local activities to do at the beautiful outdoor places in our care, from walking and hiking trails to inspiration for getting out and about.