Respect the river

And stay safe out there

Posted 8/2/23

Here at the River Reporter, we’ve known for decades: The National Park Service (NPS) knows what its talking about. Before you get on the river, take a minute to read these tips from NPS to …

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Respect the river

And stay safe out there


Here at the River Reporter, we’ve known for decades: The National Park Service (NPS) knows what its talking about. Before you get on the river, take a minute to read these tips from NPS to ensure a safe, unforgettable adventure for you and your friends or family (

First thing’s first:  Always wear your life jacket

It’s smart to wear a life jacket while boating, tubing, fishing, wading, or swimming: Always wear it when you’re on or in the water. By law, all children 12 and under must wear a life jacket while on the river in any vessel, including inner tubes. Every person in a boat or using an inner tube must have a life jacket within reach, not tied to the vessel. Each person’s life jacket must be the proper size and in good condition.

The Upper Delaware River, at its average water level, has only a few Class I or II rapids. However, moving water can be deceptive and potentially treacherous, even for non-paddlers. More drownings on the Delaware River have been swimming-related than boating-related; most drownings occur when boaters stop and swim. In all cases, the victims were not wearing a properly fitted life jacket. 

Never swim alone!

Do not overestimate your swimming ability. Do not attempt to swim or wade across the river. The Delaware River has strong currents and steep drop-offs. Swimming becomes more difficult with increased current and water depth. Even the strongest of swimmers should be extremely cautious.

Be aware of river conditions

Call the Upper Delaware River Hotline at 845/252-7100. This recorded message is available 24 hours a day and is updated daily during the boating season. It provides the river height, air and water temperatures, boating conditions and general river safety information. Be aware of upstream releases and sudden changes in water depth and speed.

Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return

Arrange drop-off and pick-up points before you leave. Leave emergency phone numbers, vehicle descriptions and tag numbers with someone who can report that you are overdue.

Keep these points in mind as you enjoy a day of swimming and boating in the river:

  • River rocks can be very slippery.
  • Shoes will protect against sharp glass and rocks.
  • Always stay with your group.
  • Guard yourself against sunburn by wearing a hat and light clothing and by using sunscreen with a high rating.
  • Cold water and/or weather can cause hypothermia.
  • Stay hydrated, but do not drink river or stream water; even clean water can have natural bacteria.
  • Do not jump or dive from cliffs, rocks, or bridges into the river; the water may be shallow and objects can be submerged. Rivers are constantly changing, especially with high water. Rocks can show up in places they never were before.
  • Never attempt to swim across the river. Even the strongest swimmers can become fatigued. A large number of drownings occur this way.
  • Alcohol and boating are a killer combination! It can enhance heat-related illnesses and slow your response in an emergency. Laws on underage drinking, possession and use of illegal drugs, disorderly conduct and littering are strictly enforced.
  • Avoid obstacles in the water well in advance. Stop and scout rapids to pick the best channel.
  • Never tie your life jacket to your boat.
  • Bring a spare paddle, a throw line, and a first aid kit.
  • Do not stand in your boat. Kneel when canoeing in rapids to keep your weight low. This helps avoid capsizing. In rapids, aim for the downstream “V”.
  • Paddle on opposite sides of the canoe. Hold onto your paddle, not the boat.
  • Always be courteous on the river. You may encounter a variety of river users on your trip. Please respect their rights and act responsibly and ethically. Additionally, respect the private property of those living along the river.

And if you capsize...

  • Don’t panic—save people first! Retrieve boats and equipment only if it can be done safely.
  • Stay upstream of the boat so it does not pin you against a rock.
  • Don’t attempt to stand in rapids. Your foot could become trapped between submerged rocks. The current can be strong enough to push you over and hold you under even if you are wearing a life jacket. Get on your back and keep your feet up and pointed downstream to push off obstacles.
  • Never swim against the current. Backstroke and let the current naturally take you to shore.

Reprinted from Hello Summer, 2021.

swimming, river, boating, safety, national park service


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