The Chilliwack area is home to several rivers, from the mighty Fraser to the exciting, white-water of the Chilliwack/Vedder River. There have been media stories flashed around the World of record-sized Sturgeon being caught and released just outside our back door. Along the Chilliwack/Vedder River, anglers and flyfishers are a constant sight making rhythmic casts while sunlight twinkles on the water surface. What better place to white-water raft, kayak, inner-tube, fish, hike or simply take a relaxing stroll along riverside trails and paths. We’re lucky to have our rivers so close at hand to enjoy year round. While the natural beauty of our area river seem eternally idyllic, there are river dangers that can befall an unsuspecting nature-lover. Awareness of ever-changing water conditions and good safety practices will ensure a long, happy relationship with what nature has provided.
Inland waterways consist of rivers, lakes, dams, irrigation channels and creeks, all of which pose hazards that we need to be aware of. Swift moving water, strewn with large boulders and trees of all shapes and sizes, can be tricky to navigate. Swift currents can be hidden under a smooth, placid surface, and constantly rising and falling water levels create new hazards as natural features are submerged and exposed.
Changing seasonal patterns, flooding and other effects of nature can cause an inland waterway to change. If a normally dry water crossing is flooded, don’t try to cross it. While it may look calm and shallow on the surface, it’s possible the road that was there no longer exists.
While you can always call Chilliwack Search and Rescue for help, inland waterways are not patrolled by lifeguards and should someone get into trouble, there may be no one there to readily assist them. Submerged objects, like branches or rocks, are often invisible from above the surface and present a real risk of injury, especially to divers. Swimmers can panic if they’re caught in submerged objects, which are ever present in many waterways. Always enter the water slowly, feet first. Never dive in. Be aware that cold water can cause hypothermia. Water can also be deeper than first thought due to steep drop-offs in dams or riverbeds.
If you’re going to be on the water for the first time, take a water safety course or bring along someone experienced with the water conditions you’ll be experiencing.
1. Wear your life jacket. It’s always possible to capsize in any water condition.
2. Before you leave, know where you’re going and tell someone where you’ll be and when you’ll return.
3. Check the weather forecast and bring clothing and equipment for the anticipated conditions.
4. Carry identification that includes your name, phone number, pertinent medical information, and emergency contact information in a waterproof bag. Store your cell phone and camera in a waterproof bag as well.
5. Know the water conditions. Is the water rising or falling? Has there been a recent storm that has changed conditions?
6. Beware of Strainers. Strainers are fallen trees, bridge pilings, undercut rocks or anything else that allows the current to flow through it while holding you.
7. Never go boating or tubing while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You need your wits about you to stay safe.
8. If you’re unsure of the way forward, get onto dry land and scout the route.
9. Know your abilities and don’t try to take on too much of a challenge. Stay within yourself.
10.To avoid hypothermia, bring extra clothes in case you capsize.
11. Avoid floating or paddling over fallen trees and other in-stream obstructions.
12. Never stand up in a canoe or kayak and avoid sudden shifts in weight.
13. Carry adequate food and water.
14. Be kind to our natural resources. Leave rocks and plants as you find them. Respect wildlife. Stay clear of nests, dens and rookeries.
15. Take out what you bring in.
16. Human food is unhealthy for wildlife. Please do not share your food with animals.