River Safety

On the river:

  • PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices) Adjust the PFD to fit, and wear it getting into the boat and through any fast moving water. Take care of your PFD; keep it handy and out of the bilge.
  • Go slow getting into and out of the boat; kneel down through fast water and during any maneuvers.
  • Remain plumb and centered in your canoe. Do not lean upstream; it is better to lean into any object that the canoe has struck or has become lodged against.
  • If your canoe is likely to enter cane or tree branches, kneel down and duck, be especially careful of your eyes and watch for loose articles that may be swept off the boat, i.e. hats, sunglasses, PFDs, etc.
  • Keep the boat in front of you and the boat behind you in sight. Stay together and help each other when there is a mishap.
  • Be careful of your footing in and around the water. The river bottom can be rocky, slippery, or murky. When possible, step where you can see your footing and never dive into the river.
  • Scout problem areas, consider lining.

Unplanned swims:

  • Get free of the boat and get upstream of the boat.
  • Keep feet up and pointed downstream. Try to swim the boat to shore.
  • Right the canoe as soon as possible and alert folks to any gear that needs retrieving.

At camp:

  • Watch where you put your hands and feet.
  • Slow down and think about all actions. Landings can be awkward places to load and unload gear. Get help with heavy items, watch your back.
  • Secure boats, PFDs and all other items from wind and rising water.


  • Drink lots of water.
  • Protect yourself from the elements. Wear a hat and use sun block liberally.
  • Do you have any allergies? Do you require medication?
  • Know location of safety equipment.

Last updated: July 23, 2013

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Big Bend National Park, TX 79834-0129


(432) 477-2251

Contact Us