Kayaking Tips & Safety

Safety first! Any time you’re planning for watersports, we recommend doing some research ahead of time. Our trip profiles provide a great starting point, and we link to many additional resources for more extensive information.

What to Wear

  • Quick-drying clothing or swimsuit
  • Water shoes, sandals with tread and strap, or old sneakers. You’ll have to get your feet wet at some point!
  • Sunglasses (with a neck strap)
  • Hat with a brim

What to Bring

  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Waterproof bag
  • Water in a reusable container (Most people forget this, and it’s important to stay hydrated!)
  • Travel-size first aid kit
  • Change of clothing
  • Fishing gear

Kayaking in our region’s waterways is generally safe under normal conditions with gentle currents and shallow depths. Before putting your kayak in the water, the outfitters will review safety instructions and give you the lay of the land (or water). Coast Guard PFDs (life vests) must be on board for each paddler and must be worn between November 1 and April 30. Each vessel must also have a whistle.

If you’re planning to kayak without the assistance of an outfitter, read through the PA Fish & Boat Commission’s rules and safety regulations for Paddle Sports. Please call ahead to check creek and river conditions which change daily and could impact your trip. The region’s outfitters have intimate knowledge of these waterways and make an invaluable resource for paddlers.

Areas For Added Caution:

In North Harrisburg, while navigating the Dauphin Narrows, stay to the river left of the Statue of Liberty and ride the waves through. If you are hoping to get a good look at the statue (when you pass her she’s facing away from you, toward Harrisburg) navigate the narrows safely, then paddle back up to look at her face. We have more information about the Susquehanna River’s Statue of Liberty Float in the Profile.

In South Harrisburg, the Dock Street Dam is a perilous spot to avoid for all vessels. It is illegal to come within 200 feet above and 100 feet below the dam. The Dock Street Dam is located downstream of Harrisburg’s City Island and several miles below our highlighted Statue of Liberty route.  

When you’re surrounded by beautiful scenery, it’s easy to feel relaxed. Kayakers should always remain alert to what is up ahead of them, whether it’s a jutting rock in the Susquehanna or a low branch along a creek.

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