Paddling Safety Tips for Beginners in Detroit and Southeast Michigan

Never been on a paddling trip before? No problem. Even debutants can easily have a great time on their first outing. However, whether it’s your first time or your 100th, being prepared is paramount.

Be aware of weather conditions.
It is important to keep weather in mind when doing any outdoor activity to ensure a fun and safe outing — bring lots of water for hot days, extra layers to combat a chill, and post-pone if the weather poses safety risks or waters are unusually rough.

The National Weather Service is a great resource for keeping you abreast of the latest weather conditions around Detroit and other regions.

Be aware of water quality.
Runoff after heavy rains can have a negative impact on water quality. Always be sure to check not only weather conditions, but water conditions to ensure a safe excursion.

Wear Sun Protection.
Being out on the water means increased sun exposure. Wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat will help prevent sun damage from UV ray which can still occur even on overcast days.

Wear a life vest.
A strong swimmer you might be, but paddling can be more tiring than you might expect, and a kayak that tips over can be dangerous for a fatigued paddler.

Bring a headlamp or flashlight.
Dusk can fall quickly, and being without a light on dark water can be dangerous.

Bring plenty of water and snacks.
Having plenty of water and something to munch on is essential in avoiding the dangers of dehydration and fatigue.

What else to bring
For more detailed information on what to bring on your kayak or canoe trip, check out REI’s Kayaking Checklist and REI’s Canoeing Checklist.

For more detailed information
CRWC in Southeast Michigan and Canoeing.com also offer great advice about planning your trip and go into greater detail as to considerations that need to be taken.

Three Paddling Opportunities near Detroit

Beginner: Lake St. Clair – Salt River

Medium: Sylvan and Otter Lake


Experienced: Belle Isle – North Canal Paddle

For more information specific to the Detroit area, check out the Clinton River Watershed Council website and the Friends of the Rouge website to keep up-to-date with local news and events!