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River Safety


At New River Campground Canoeing and Kayaking your safety is very important to us. We strive to ensure every one of our visitors has a fun and safe time while they are with us. At New River Campground Canoeing and Kayaking we will inform you of any precautions you may need to take because of current conditions that we are aware of, before you embark on your trip. We reserve the right to cancel river trips when we determine, to the best of our ability, that conditions of the river are just unsafe. A big part of having fun with the New River is being familiar with how to be safe at the same time, and that is what this guide is about.


Though the New River has a gentle flow overall, and is set admist some incredibly beautiful and tranquil scenery, don't let that fool you. There is inherent danger in all rivers and the New River is no exception. It is because of this inherent danger that you must show the river the respect it should be shown as a powerful force of nature with the ability to hurt you if you are not careful. The best way to do that is with some knowledge properly applied. Here are some things you need to know about the New River.

The New River and its tributaries are prone to flooding in heavy rains, so you must exercise extra caution during heavy rains because of higher risks of flooding. Heavy rains can also happen in areas away from where you are, that can still impact your location with flooding waters, so canoeist should always portage around all low water bridges. This is also yet one more excellent reason that everyone should wear their personal floatation devices (life jackets) at all times.

The appearance of the New River varies as the amount of water flowing through it changes, which adds to the beauty and excitement of the river. However these changing water flows also vary the difficulty of the river. At higher levels expect smaller rapids to smooth out and larger rapids and falls to become more dangerous. A large amount of rain will tend to smooth out a Class I rapid, but will change a Class II rapid to a Class III rapid and a Class III to a Class IV, for example.

When the water temperature is below 50 degrees F, or the trip is scheduled for a remote wilderness area, the river should be considered one class more difficult even during normal water levels.

River depths can be deceptive, which can cause water to look less deep than it actually is. There are parts of the New River that go over eight feet deep, as well as underwater obstacles and currents. There is an inherent possibility of a canoe capsizing even in water levels under three feet. Unseen rocks and logs, as well as the canoe itself, could knock even an expert paddler unconscious. Once again making the Personal Floatation Device (life jacket) a true life saver that should be worn at all times.

One of the biggest risks of river rafting is hypothermia. For dealing with this the golden rule of air and water temperature was developed. The rule is simple, just add the air temperature and the water temperature to get the combined temperature. If the combined water plus air temperature is less than 120, wet or dry suits are recommended. If the combined temperatures are below 100 degrees, wet or dry suits should be required. Here at New River Campground Canoeing and Kayaking we believe in following this rule, and will require you to have a wet or dry suit if you wish to go on the river when the combined temps are below 100 degrees.


Here are some expert recommendations that we at New River Campground Canoeing and Kayaking can whole heartedly get behind. 

  • Wear your life jackets! We cannot recommend strongly enough that all adults and children wear Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Devices (life jackets) at all times, no matter their skill level. We provide one for every person. Experts recommend that a helmet be worn when navigating the difficult rapids. A spare paddle and rescue line are also recommended.

  • Learn the rapid classifications. Learn the appropriate rapid classifications for the stretch of the New River that we service, which you might encounter. That would be Class I - Class IV rapids. Class I - Class III normally, with the Class III becoming a Class IV in higher water level conditions.

  • Learn about the river. Re-read the section above this one about respecting the river to help familiarize yourself with the information. Experts recommend that beginners canoe with an experienced canoeist, or a guide if they are not familiar with the river. 

  • Be aware of the river. Be able to recognize the signs of a river in flood. Flood waters can cause the height of the river to increase quickly accompanied by an acceleration in flow rate. Be extra alert if you experience sudden changes in weather with heavy rainfall.

  • Know your skill levels and limits. You should know how to swim, even when fully clothed. Do not overestimate your abilities. While on your trip you can get out of your canoe and walk the river banks to scout out difficult areas coming up. Don't take chances; if in doubt you can carry your canoe around the rapids. If you are planning a long or difficult trip you should physically condition yourself prior to starting your trip.

  • Never Canoe alone. Experts recommend that you canoe with a minimum of three boats. All boats should maintain visual contact with each other.

  • Be prepared to capsize. If your boat capsizes in white water get away from it and try to swim on the upstream side of the boat. Float through the rapids on your back with your feet up and pointed downstream to fend off rocks or other obstructions. If your boat capsizes in flat water, try to hang on to the boat since most boats will float. Secure the boat as soon as you are safe, and find a suitable spot on shore to get back in and relaunch.

  • Log a trip plan. It is recommended that you log a trip plan with someone. This can be a friend or relative not going on the trip who knows of your plans to take an excursion on the New River, where you are going to be, and when you should be done. We highly recommend that you leave this persons name and number with us before your trip.

  • We also very strongly recommend that a cell phone be taken on your trip which can be stored in a Ziplock bag and put into a secure pocket (think zips up), or other water tight container, which is made to attach to a belt or otherwise tether to your body or clothing securely.

  • Follow the Golden Rule of air and water temperature. If the combined air and water temperature is below 100 a wet suit is a must, and if the two are below 120 degrees a wet or dry suit is recommended. Wet suit booties under oversized tennis shoes can be handy whatever the temp.



  1. Check weather conditions.

  2. Check flow conditions.

  3. Have maps or charts for your route.

  4. Make sure your clothing is suitable for the water and weather conditions.

  5. Have sufficient safe drinking water for your trip.

  6. Protect yourself from the sun with a hat, sunblock and UV blocking or polarized sunglasses.

  7. Know the location of boat launches and access points along the reach.

  8. Log a trip/float plan with a friend, spouse, parent or gaurdian and leave their contact information with us before your trip.

  9. Have a basic first aid kit, basic tools and spare parts in the boat.Have a cellular phone in a waterproof bag or container,

  10. Ensure you have properly fitted personal floatation devices (life jackets) for everyone on board, and wear them!

  11. Ensure all safety equipment is in working order.

  12. Get proper training before you venture out.

  13. Never canoe alone. A minimum of three boats is recommended. Maintain visual contact with all boats.

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