Etiquette and Safety

Water Trail Etiquette and Safety

Paddling Safely

  • Always wear your life jacket – Adjust so it is snug and doesn’t lift up when pulled by shoulders.
  • Carry the essentials – This includes a signaling device (whistle) on your life jacket, communication device (VHF radio, cell phone, Personal Locator Beacon), first aid/safety equipment, extra clothing, and water/snacks.
  • Know your limits – Be prepared for the unexpected. If you don’t feel comfortable, return to shore.
  • Plan for changing weather conditions – Be aware of the horizon and changing wind speed/direction. If the weather worsens, get off the water right away.
  • Dress for immersion – Dress for the water temperature. Temperatures below 70⁰F are considered cold, wearing a wetsuit or drysuit will keep you warmer. Always avoid cotton.
  • Dress for visibility – Choose bright colors so others can see you. Carry a light if heading out early or late in the day.
  • Share your plan – Tell a friend where and when you will paddle and what to do if you don’t check in as scheduled.
  • Help others – Provide whatever assistance you are qualified to give to others who are in trouble or injured or help them obtain further assistance.
  • Take a paddling class. Paddle Antrim offers classes or you can find an instructor near you through the American Canoe Association.

Sharing the Waterways

Because launches and waterways are enjoyed by many different user groups, it is important to be respectful and minimize user conflicts. The information below is adapted from American Whitewater’s Share the River Recommendations.

When at access sites or on the water:

  • Drive courteously and within the speed limit, respecting those that live nearby.
  • Park in designated areas making sure to not block driveways or interfere with traffic.
  • Change clothes discreetly.
  • Do not play loud music.
  • Follow the laws and rules of the area you are using.
  • Consider taking a few minutes to pick up litter left by others.
  • At launches, behave in a friendly positive manner toward others and, if able, help those who need assistance.
  • Be mindful of the time you spend occupying the launch or take-out area to not unfairly restrict opportunities for others.

When interacting with anglers:

  • Paddle past areas that are being fished with minimal splashing to not disturb fish.
  • Avoid being loud. Voices carry well over water, so avoid shouting unless necessary for safety reasons.
  • Avoid startling anglers. When possible, pass anglers on a highly visible path and make eye contact with the angler as far upstream as possible
  • Don’t approach casting anglers.

Protecting our Waterways

  • Leave nature as you found it – Take your trash and any other litter you may find.
  • Stay on the trail – Stay on established trails and use existing launches to reduce erosion.
  • Look out for loons – Avoid active nests and young chicks on the water. Observe from “binocular range” as close encounters can cause adults to abandon their nest.
  • Stop the spread of aquatic invasive species – Clean, drain, and dry your boat and gear after every trip.

Safety First

Safety is an important concern during most outdoor activities, but travel by water is inherently dangerous. There is no way to guarantee your safety when kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding or otherwise travelling this water trail. No map can alert you to every hazard. No sign or guidebook can anticipate the limitations of every traveler, nor identify the changes in relevant conditions, such as weather, water levels, downed trees or shore and bank erosion. Paddle Antrim and the access site owners will not be held responsible for issues you encounter on your journey. When you travel this water trail you are responsible for your own safety, and you assume all risk of loss or injury. Have fun and be careful.

The Chain of Lakes Water Trail is hosted by Paddle Antrim, a non-profit organization working to protect water resources by connecting people through paddle sports. The Chain of Lakes Water Trail is recognized as a state designated water trail. The Michigan State Water Trail program is administered by the Department of Natural Resources. Learn about other Michigan water trails

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