With spring comes rising water and the call of the river for paddlers and many other river users. In many regions trout fishing is just opening for the season, and hikers and horse packers are starting to get out in the woods. We thought we’d take this opportunity to offer some advice to paddlers on how to best share rivers and trails with other recreationists. We talked with anglers, river managers and horse packers to develop these recommendations and we hope they help all users responsibly enjoy the same great places this season. Have a great spring boating season!


Interacting with Anglers

American Whitewater asks paddlers to use the following guidelines when paddling past any angler, based on input from the angling community:

– Stay in the main flow whenever possible while paddling past anglers or while paddling in heavily fished waters.

– Paddle past areas that are being fished consistently with minimal splashing. Fish can be disturbed by noise and surface activity.

– Avoid shouting or being loud on the water. Anglers and other recreationists generally appreciate quiet interactions with other recreational users, especially in the backcountry. Voices carry well over water, so avoid shouting when in the presence of other recreationists unless necessary for safety reasons.

– Avoid startling anglers. When possible, pass anglers on a highly visible path down the river and make eye contact with the angler as far upstream as possible. When in heavily fished waters or narrow blind streams, act as if an angler is around every bend. Fly fishermen generally cast (and therefore look) upstream so this consideration is often easily accomplished.

– Don’t approach casting anglers. This should be obvious, but if you want to say hi or do a little PR for boaters, simply smile and nod.


NOTE: If any member of the angling community has additional suggestions for this list please email me at Kevin@amwhitewater.org.


Advice for Anglers

– Avoid casting in the immediate vicinity of paddlers as they pass by.

– Recognize that paddlers will try to take the least intrusive route past you, but in some rapids options will be limited by the structure or difficulty of the rapid itself.


Interacting with Horses and Horseback Riders on Trails

American Whitewater asks that paddlers encountering horses while carrying or dragging boats on a trail follow these general guidelines. These guidelines are designed to avoid startling horses and therefore increase rider (and hiker) safety.

– Give the right of way to the horse.

– Move slowly off the trail.

– Do not make any sudden movements or loud noises.

– If on a slope, move off the trail to the downhill side if at all possible.

– Talk to the rider and horses to comfort horses.

– Lay your boat on the ground.

– When in doubt, just ask the rider/packer what they would like you to do.


NOTE: If any member of the horseback riding or horse packing community has additional suggestions for this list please email me at Kevin@amwhitewater.org.


Interacting with Local Residents and Other River Access Users

American Whitewater asks paddlers to use the following common sense guidelines when traveling to and using river access areas:

– Drive courteously and within the speed limit. Paddlers should always remember that they have large neon signs on the tops of their vehicles that let everyone know that they are boaters. Thus, paddlers have a responsibility to be good ambassadors for the paddling community while driving in their cars. Good driving etiquette, particularly in residential areas, is essential for maintaining positive relationships with those that live near paddling destinations.

– Park in designated areas, making sure to not block driveways or interfere with traffic.

– Don’t block boat ramps or busy launch sites with your boat, gear, or vehicle.

– Change clothes discretely.

– Do not play loud music.

– Follow the laws and rules of the area that you are using.

– Consider taking a few minutes to pick up litter left by others.


From AW Beta. Contact: Kevin Colburn,
National Stewardship Director, American Whitewater.


From The Eddy Line, July 2005