Wear Your Life Jacket
This is the number one rule of boating safety. PFDs–personal flotation devices–are known as “life jackets” for a reason, they save lives. Wear a PFD or run the risk of being DOA. Georgia state law requires that all vessels must have at least one USCG-approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD for each person on board. However, Type V PFDs are acceptable only when worn and securely fastened. Children under the age of 10 must wear a life jacket at all times on a moving vessel. Though state law doesn’t require it, wearing your life jacket at all times is the best practice.
Know Your Boat
Whether you are in a canoe, kayak, paddleboard or motorized boat, know how to operate your vessel. Canoe and kayaking classes are taught by numerous organizations. The Georgia Canoeing Association teaches regular classes on paddling and boating safety. The Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources also provides extensive information on safety practices in motorized vessels.
Know the River and Prepare for Your Trip
If you are reading this, you’ve taken the first step toward a safe river trip–know the section of river that you will be discovering and understand its unique dangers. In particular, the Etowah Falls section includes a Class IV rapid, and the Indian Mounds section includes a lowhead dam (never attempt to paddle over a lowhead dam). Do not attempt river sections that are beyond your skill levels. Leave your trip itinerary with someone else who can notify others if you don’t return as planned. Remember, what you take on the trip is all that you will have to survive and rescue yourself. Carry appropriate food, water, clothes and rescue equipment. While no section of the Etowah is more than a day’s walk from “civilization,” expect the unexpected and plan accordingly.
Wear The Right Clothes
Wear the appropriate clothes to protect from sun, heat, rain and cold. Cold water is especially dangerous as extended contact with cold and wet can lead to hypothermia and death. During cool weather, dress in layers using clothing made of synthetic fabrics such as polypropolene, nylon, neoprene and polyester fleece. Always bring extra clothing protected in a waterproof container. When temperatures are below 60 degrees or combined air and water temperatures are less than 120 degrees, wear a wet suit or dry suit. Waterproof shoes, socks and gloves are also recommended. Always wear secure fitting river shoes to protect your feet. Helmets should be worn when paddling whitewater. Watch for other Boaters This safety practice is especially important on Lake Allatoona and on the whitewater sections of the Etowah. Lake Allatoona experiences heavy motorized boat traffic. Paddlers should stay close to shores and avoid main channels whenever possible. Waves created by motorboats are best navigated by turning the bow (nose) of the boat into wave rather than taking the wave broadside. When paddling at night, a white light must be shown toward oncoming traffic. On the whitewater sections of the Etowah (and in other locations where navigational hazards exist) paddlers should confirm that downstream boaters are clear of the rapid or obstacle before proceeding.
- Spare paddle
- Paddles break and motors die.
- Hat or Helmet
- Don a hat for sun protection and/or warmth and a helmet whenever paddling whitewater.
- or Signaling Device. Three sharp blows on a whistle are a universal distress signal.
- Throw Bags
- and Other Rescue Gear. Especially important in whitewater.
- “River” Knife
- A safely and easily accessible knife can save a life when entangled in rope or other hazards
- Bilge Pump or Bailer
- Because holes in boats do happen
- Extra Clothing
- Keep in a dry bag. Dry clothes keep you warm; wet clothes, not so much.
- Prevents skin damage
- Compass and Map
- Keeps you oriented.
- First Aid Kit
- In the event of a medical emergency
- Aid in starting a fire
- Small Boat Repair Kit
- Make sure this contains duct tape.
Practice No Trace Travel
Practicing no trace travel is simple: just remember to leave your path so that those who come behind would never know that someone passed before them. Never litter and always pack out trash (including the trash of those less considerate). Conduct all toilet activity at least 200 feet from any body of water. Bury your waste in a six-to-eight-inch deep “cathole” or pack it out. Be conscious of private property and do not conduct your toilet activity in someone’s backyard. Additionally…
- Avoid building campfires, except in established fire rings or in emergencies.
- Minimize impacts to shore when launching, portaging, scouting, or taking out.
- Examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Do not disturb wildlife.
The Etowah is traveled by many, and many people make their homes along it. Always be respectful of other river users and riverfront property owners. Poor behavior by some river users can adversely impact other users through increased regulation and fees, limitations on access and damage to the environment. The vast majority of property along the Etowah is private property. Islands within the river are also private property. While Georgia law allows boaters the right of passage on navigable streams, the law does not provide the right to travel on private property. Remain in the river channel, except in cases where you know public land exists or where property owners allow boaters access.
- Know and obey all rules and regulations.
- Be courteous and polite when communicating with others.
- Avoid interfering with the recreational activities of others.
- Never engage in loud, lewd or inappropriate behavior.
- ake care to avoid paddling near areas of heightened security (such as Allatoona Dam and some industrial facilities).
- Control pets or leave them at home.
A Note on Parking at Launch Sites/Take Outs
While many popular launch/take out sites have designated parking areas or pull offs on right-of-ways, some river access locations identified in this user’s guide do not have adequate parking. Care should be taken when parking vehicles and unloading boats. Avoid parking on roadsides wherever possible.