CHECKING LOCAL HAZARDS
Before boating in any new or unfamiliar waterways, obtain local marine charts. If local charts are unavailable, consulting with local boaters and marinas is wise, as these sources usually have a wealth of knowledge about local hazards to avoid. Always consult with local authorities to obtain any local rules or restrictions, such as motorized operation restrictions or hours of operation and access to locking operations.
LOCAL HAZARDS TO BE WARY OF
Note: Low-head dams are especially hazardous to paddle craft. If you are paddling where a low-head dam is present, always portageThe act of carrying a boat or vessel overland between two waterways or around an obstacle to navigation. around the dam by carrying the boat and its cargo overland between the navigable waters. If you do get trapped in a hydraulic, tuck your chin down and hold your knees tight to your chest with your arms.
Locks should always be approached at idle speed. One long blast followed by one short blast indicates intention to enter the lock. Military and commercial vessels have priority, so recreational boaters must wait for their turn. Stay clear of vessels entering/leaving the lock, and be mindful of barges and large craft that can create dangerous current, drawing smaller vessels into their path. Once the lockmaster directs you into the lock, proceed with caution. Always wear your PFD and remain seated. Wait for the lockmaster's signal before leaving the lock at idle speed.
Powerlines are especially hazardous for sailing vessels, or vessels with a mast. Always make sure your vessel has enough clearance to safely go underneath the lines. If you are unsure, don't chance it.
Low seasonal waters —remember that local charts show an average in water level. Generally waters are higher in the spring, and lower through the summer.
Obstructions such as bridges, channel openings, commercial fishing nets etc.
LOW-HEAD DAMS ARE DIFFICULT TO DETECT DOWNSTREAM.