Photo by Michael J Wilson
Nothing beats spending a hot afternoon floating the Elk River, but it is important to be aware of the hazards. Many stretches of the Elk have dangerous logjams and accidents occur each summer. Here are 5 tips to make you stay afloat and come home smiling.
1. Know where to go
Starting at the North Fernie Bridge (Canadian Tire) and taking out at the boat launch in Dogwood Park is a great length and mostly free of logjams. If you choose to go to another part of the river, talk to friends to find out if it is safe. Remember that constantly changing water levels mean that currents and hazards might not be the same as on your last float.
Adapted from: http://www.fernierealestateguide.com/images/fernie_map.pdf
2. Gear up
A lifejacket can be a life saver. Fast moving water and logjams can make swimming difficult. Wearing shoes means you can push off obstacles if needed and walk out if something happens to your boat. Don't tie boats together. People can be tangled in the ropes if the boat sinks or is pinned.
3. Float like a pro
Save the log grinds for snowboard season and stay far away from logjams. These gnarly looking pileups let water flow through but not you, meaning you can easily get pinned above or below the water. Look where water currents are flowing and make your move early on.
Photo by Gord Bunston
4. Defensive swimming
If you do end up in the water the safest way to swim is floating on your back, looking downstream for obstacles. Keep your feet up to push off obstacles and to avoid getting them stuck. Roll over and swim if you need to move quickly away from obstacles or to get to a safe shore.
Drawing by Paul Mason. http://www.paddling.net/guidelines/showArticle.html?399
5. Lose the booze
Swap your brew for a non-alcoholic drink (May we suggest chocolate sauce, coconut and gummy fish!) You never know when you might need a clear head to help a friend in a bad situation. Have a beer on a patio to celebrate your float and sunshine on the Elk River!
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