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What to Consider When Kayaking in the Spring

Spring: when paddlers fancy turns to thoughts of kayaking! The sun is out, the temperatures are increasing, blue skies and clear water are calling. If you are yearning for the first paddle of the year, there are a few things to consider to make your spring paddling safer.

If you have been cooped up all winter, you are likely ready to pounce on the first warm day to launch your kayak. But spring can be a particularly tricky time of year simply because of its unpredictability. In order to make the most of your paddling, be aware of the dangers of spring kayaking.

Kayaking in the Spring: Plan for unpredictability

  • Unpredictable temperature

The air temperature might be ramping up but water temps are slower to increase. It is extremely important to keep this in mind as you begin paddling again. Always, always plan to get wet. Even if you are an experienced kayaker, things can always take a turn. You must always be prepared for an unexpected capsize or problem. And since water temperatures are still cold in spring, you need to be prepared.

In fact, according to the US Coast Guard, April is the second deadliest month for paddling accidents. And a lot of that is attributable to overturning. Dress for the water temperature not the air temperature. This might mean wet or dry suits if the water temperature is below 70 degrees F. Even water in the 70-77 degree range can set off cold water shock. So make sure you are prepared. Always wear a PFD, know self-rescue techniques (and consider staying close to shore), kayak with a buddy, carry a whistle, and leave a float plan with someone on shore.

  • Unpredictable routes

Spring can also come with unexpected changes to familiar routes. As winter runoff and spring storms swell rivers, streams, creeks, and reservoirs, you need to be a savvy paddler. Be aware of water levels and what that can mean for flow, which can create rapids that weren’t there last summer or fall. Water levels can change quickly so check before you kayak.

In addition, that run off can carry debris that builds up or rushes along creating a hazard for kayakers.  Heavy rain can carry branches, trees, and more into waterways. Be vigilant in spring, keeping an eye out for floating objects in the water.

  • Unpredictable wildlife

While spring can be an incredibly beautiful time to revel in the beauty of nature, you should also be mindful of the dangers it can pose as well - and not just all the pollen triggering your allergies.

Remember to leave a light footprint as you get out into nature in the spring. Animals are waking up from the long winter sleep. They might be hungry, mating, or defending their young. So stay observant. Enjoy watching the world wake up but be sure to keep your distance.

  • Unpredictable weather

As mentioned above, temperatures can vary in the extreme, but so can the weather. What begins as a warm, sunny morning can quickly turn stormy. As pressure systems sweep through, winds, storms, and more can create kayaking hazards.

Always consult the forecast before heading out to kayak. But also be willing to cut your excursion short if weather events spring up. It is better to be safe than sorry. And there are more paddling days to come as the weather heats up.

  • Unpredictable equipment

Especially if you've had your kayak and gear tucked away for months, you should plan to take a bit of time to make sure you don’t have any unexpected issues on the water. Inspect your kayak for worn areas, holes, or critter damage. Make sure it is still in tip-top shape. If you take care to store your kayak correctly in the fall / winter, you shouldn’t need to do a whole lot to get it water ready.

But you should set aside a little bit of time before your first launch of the season to inspect your kayak. Make sure that everything is working (not just the kayak): gear, rigging, equipment, roof rack, etc. Take care of your equipment and it will take care of you.


Don’t be afraid to get that first launch underway as the weather warms. Just be aware of the unpredictability of this season. Be prepared and enjoy. Happy paddling!

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