Reading Water: Recognizing Hazards 101

Recognizing Basic Hazards

In this video, we'll cover the basic hazards you will encounter on the river: hitting rocks sideways, wood, and man-made objects. Always be on the look out for hazards while paddling in moving water.


Hitting rocks can be an inevitable part of boating. But rocks are only hazards in whitewater if we hit them the wrong way

  • Avoid hitting rocks sideways which could cause a potential flip or wrap
  • If sideways to a rock, be prepared to "high side" and push the downstream tube back towards the water
  • Otherwise, hit rocks straight on with the bow or stern of the boat

Wood (aka "strainers")

Wood should be avoided when on the river

  • People can become entrapped by multiple snag points
  • Sharp points can cause boat damage

Recognizing strainers:

  • Bundles of debris and logs in the river
  • Fallen trees
  • New wood from high flows (especially in Winter and Spring)

Man-Made Objects

Man-made objects should also be avoided

    • They can form perfect hydraulics with no exit, recirculating swimmers or equipment
    • They are often full of snag hazards, rebar, and materials that can cause injury

Common man-made objects on rivers include:

  • Bridge pylons
  • Concrete blocks
  • Weirs
  • Low head dams
  • Fish ladders

Low Head Dams and Weirs are known as "Drowning Machines" (read more)

Activity: Find the Hazards!

Find the hazards in these clips, then we will discuss each one.

Complete and Continue