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Stay Safe when Kayaking in Alaska

July 26, 2013 by

Kayak in Alaska

For those looking for a kayaking adventure, kayaking in Alaska offers breathtaking views whether you plan to traverse the coastline or one of the many streams or rivers. Tours offer an ideal for the inexperienced, but if you plan to head out on your own here are a few things to watch for and know if you want to stay safe.

Log jam

Avoid log jams.

Fallen Trees and Log Jams

When kayaking in Alaska, there’s a good chance you’ll come across fall trees or trees with branches reaching down sweeping the surface of the water. Steer clear because if your kayak gets caught by a sweeper, the kayak may list to the side and start to fill with water.

It’s also hard to maneuver the long paddle to free yourself. Most often you’ll experience sweepers in slow-moving water and log jams of tangled fallen trees in fast water. If you don’t see a way around, it is best to back paddle away from the bank and navigate away from tree problems.

Use a Topographical Map

Check topographical maps and guidebooks to learn about the route you plan to kayak. Be aware of rapids. If you get caught in fast moving water and get suck against a rock or log jam, your kayak may fill and sink, leaving you to hike back to where you started.

Check with the Alaska River Forecast Center

River levels rise and fall. As the weather warms glaciers and snowfields melt raising water levels.

Check with the Alaska River Forecast Center to know what’s happening upstream because Alaska’s soil is rocky and steep and heavy rains upstream might quickly raise levels. Higher water levels increase the difficulty level and can turn mild riffles into rapids.

Alaska Kayak Guide

Buy a Guidebook

Equip yourself with a handy guidebook and compass, too. Karen Jettmar’s Alaska River Guide: Canoeing, Kayaking and Rafting the Last Frontier is a good choice. It covers a number of the Northern streams.

Kayaking in Alaska is an ideal way to explore the many coves and islands the coastline has to offer. If you are an inexperienced kayaker, it is best to arrange a tour with a skilled guide. Either way, you’ll enjoy the scenery and wildlife including water birds, sea otters, bears, and even orcas and humpback whales.

Photo credits: Threat to Democracy, USFS Region 10, Amazon

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