Tugaloo River Water Trail Policies
- No alcoholic beverages are permitted on the river.
- All participants must attend the pre-launch safety briefing. Participants must adhere to the safety guidelines presented.
- Participants must wear a properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard approved personal floatation device at all times on the river.
- Participants under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
- Sorry, no pets allowed.
- All participants must sign a Medical and Emergency Contact Information sheet and a Waiver of Claims and Release of Liability form. Parents must sign for children under the age of 18. (These forms were given to you as you registered.)
- Person-powered watercraft only exception is our sweep boat.
- All participants must respect private property along the river.
- All participants must possess basic paddling skills and be capable of self-rescue in the water.
- No more than 2 children under the age of 12 per adult guardian.
- All children must have a designated seat in the vessel in which they are traveling. (no children on decks of kayaks or as “passengers” in cockpits of solo kayaks)
- The Tugaloo River Water Trail is not responsible for any personal property that may be lost, damaged, or stolen during the trip.
Code of Conduct
On the Tugaloo River, we like to think of our river adventure participants as our “river family.” We come from many different backgrounds, but the river is the great equalizer and our common bond. We want all participants to treat one another as family.
- Be respectful of all participants, including their property, their person and their personal views. On our river adventures you will paddle with people that are very different from you. Please respect and celebrate those differences.
- Be helpful. If you see someone that needs a hand, please lend yours.
- Be courteous. Be prepared to wait the shuttle bus, meals and more. Remember, only by working together can we get everyone safely down the river.
- Use inappropriate language. This is a family event with participants of all ages.
- Verbally or physically intimidate or abuse other participants.
- Become intoxicated or under the influence of mind-altering drugs.
Violations of these policies and our code of conduct can result in the participant being removed from the event.
For Parents and Guardians of Children
Parents and guardians are responsible for the welfare and safety of their minor participants at all times. Understand that while the Tugaloo River Water Trail adventure trips usually attract uncommonly good and kind people, we do not screen participants or conduct background checks on participants.
Here are some tips to consider as you plan for one of our paddles.
- Have at least two paddles for each boat.
- PFD—every Paddle Georgia participant must wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device at all times while on the river (no ifs, ands, buts or “gee, it’s really hot!” – this policy is STRICTLY enforced)
- Every kayak/canoe should have two lines, a bow line and a stern line 8-10 feet each in length secured in such a way that they are readily accessible, but cannot come loose accidentally. Loose rope increases the risk of entanglement in the event of capsize. Kayaks should have grab loops at both bow and stern.
- An extra throw rope in case of emergencies should be stored safely in each boat.
- Attach a whistle to your life vest or body to signal for help in case of emergency.
- Always have a Knife on hand
- First Aid Kit—while boats will be on the river with basic first aid supplies, each vessel should bring a first aid kit stored inside a waterproof bag or container.
- A repair kit—each vessel should be able to make their own repairs (duct tape, sealant, waterproof tape and other materials are recommended)
- Rain Gear—Be prepared to get wet and potentially cold. Every participant should have access to a lightweight rain jacket and rain pants in a waterproof bag or container.
- Change of Clothes—Be prepared to take an unexpected swim. Every participant should have access to a dry change of clothes kept in a waterproof bag or container.
- Appropriate footwear that will protect your feet from unseen underwater hazards and permit you to walk comfortably on land when launching and taking out and in the event that you must exit the river course.
- Sunscreen—Sunburn might be the trip’s biggest hazard.
- Water Bottle or Three —At least three quarts per person per day is recommended. Bring sufficient water for the day’s paddle for everyone in your boat. Also consider bringing electrolyte packs or powdered sports drink mix to add to your water to avoid dehydration. Drinking water is not available along the Tugaloo River Water Trail route and no drink is provided w/ sack lunches. Many paddlers will fill one bottle with water and another with sports drinks (provided each morning for you to fill your own bottles).
- Food—There is no access to food along the river. Please be sure to back lunches and/or snacks.
- Dry Bag or Ziploc—Bring a waterproof bag to protect items you don’t want to get wet, including your lunch.
Tugaloo River Water Trail participants should be aware that this kayak/canoe trip is not a commercially guided trip. While Tugaloo River Water Trail volunteers are available on the river during each day’s paddle and participants with medical and/or First Aid training will be identified, we cannot personally ensure the safety of all participants.
Unlike a commercial trip in which paid guides direct you through each bend of the river, the Tugaloo River Water Trail paddle is designed to be your adventure, and as such, you3
are responsible for your own safety. All participants are assuming risks (some of which are outlined below).
Skill Level Required: Our paddles are suitable for novices and beginners. Paddlers should have a basic understanding of paddle strokes, should be able to control their vessels in moving water and be capable of self-rescue in moving or deep water.
If you are new to paddling, we highly recommend that you take a canoe/kayak paddling course prior to any paddle trip. Our route is all flat water; there are no shoals or rapids. Many times, the Tugaloo River Water Trail offers regular kayaking skill classes. If you are new to paddling, these courses will give you the knowledge and skills you need to begin safely exploring Georgia’s rivers.
Watch for Hazards!
Strainers—Strainers are branches, trees, vegetation or other partially or totally submerged obstacles in the river’s current often found along the river’s edge. These hazards allow only water to pass through freely. The current will pull anything else down, plastering it into place, similar to the action of a kitchen colander. It is best to approach submerged trees or logs along the riverbank from the downstream side to avoid having the current pin your boat against the obstacle or flipped by the force of the water. You should also avoid grabbing on to low hanging branches of partially submerged vegetation as this action can often cause your boat to capsize. To avoid a multi-boat pile up, leave enough room between boats to allow each boat to safely navigate around these obstacles.
Weather—Strong thunderstorms and high winds are not uncommon along the Tugaloo River and Lake Hartwell. In the event of inclement weather that includes the risk of lightning, paddle to shore, secure your boat and find cover under a dense stand of small trees. Avoid open areas, especially open areas with solitary trees, and avoid gathering in large groups. By dispersing yourselves over a large area, you reduce the risk of lightning striking numerous individuals at one time. Squatting, with your feet on a personal flotation device or seat cushion, is a good idea when in the midst of a thunderstorm (while on solid ground—not in your boat!).
If dangerous weather is predicted, the paddle will be cancelled for the day. Boats will be shuttled back to the put in point. Rain alone does not constitute dangerous weather. All participants are expected to paddle rain or shine, or they may make their own arrangements for moving themselves and their boats to the next put-in and campsite. Exceptions may be made for families paddling with small children.
Sun and Heat—Hats and appropriate sunscreen are recommended. If you get too hot, the river comes with built in air conditioning – get in and cool off. You should carry at least three quarts of water each day to avoid dehydration. Sports drinks with electrolytes are also recommended. The first two days are usually the most difficult as we acclimate from spending lots of time in air-conditioned buildings to spending all day in 80-90-degree heat. Prepare by drinking lots of fluids in the days leading up to the trip.
Water Temperature—The combination of cold water and a cold afternoon thunderstorm raises the risk of dangerous changes in body temperature. Be prepared with rain gear and layered clothing that stays warm even when wet (avoid cotton).
Water Quality – Due to a variety of conditions, water quality can vary and organisms that cause illness may be present. Swimming and submersion in the water increase the risk of contracting water-borne illnesses. Ingesting river water should be avoided, and cuts and sores should be kept out of the water and treated if exposed.
Trash—Unfortunately, Georgia’s waterways collect refuse from surrounding communities. Proper footwear and exercising caution can prevent unnecessary injuries. Participants should wear sandals or shoes that provide adequate protection from broken bottles, rusted appliance parts and tin cans and anything else you might find at your local landfill.
Venomous Snakes—The land surrounding our paddle routes is potential habitat for three venomous snakes—rattlesnakes, water moccasins and copperheads. If you encounter any snakes, simply leave them alone. Should you have the misfortune of being bitten, remain calm and get medical assistance as quickly as possible. Bites from these venomous snakes are rarely fatal, given proper medical attention. At any given moment on this trip, you will not be more than an hour from a hospital.
Terra Firma—Please step carefully when paying visits to land. And remember, the Okefenokee is the “land of the trembling earth!” What looks like solid ground might sink when you put your weight on it!
Your Fellow Paddlers—This is a journey involving many individuals with varying degrees of skill level. Space yourselves so that you do not interfere with one another when maneuvering around obstacles. Pileups on the river can be just as dangerous as those that occur on interstate highways.
The “Buddy System”
We will rely on the “Buddy System” to ensure that all participants arrive safely at the day’s take-out point. Before each day’s paddle, identify your “buddy boat or boats.” This will be the boat or group of boats with whom you will paddle for the day. The group is responsible for ensuring that if someone needs help on the river that someone is nearby to provide help and that no one is left behind. Do not lose sight of your buddy boat or members of your buddy boat group. Participants who have not identified a buddy boat for the day’s paddle will not be permitted to launch from the day’s put-in point. A sweep boat will bring up the rear of the day’s paddle to further ensure that no one is left behind.
What do I do if I capsize? On slow moving water, stay with your boat and swim it to shore or shallow water where you can dump the water and right your vessel. It will float even when full of water and can support you if you become tired. Make sure your belongings are secured to your boat to keep from losing them in the event of a capsize. Your fellow buddy boaters can assist in recovering any belongings and help you right your boat. In fast-moving water or rapids, get
away and upstream from your boat until you reach slower moving water. Float on your back, feet downstream. Don’t try to stand in fast-moving water. Rocks or other objects can trap your feet and the force of the water can hold you under. Moving canoes filled with water can pin or crush paddlers against rocks or trees.
Swimming—Swimming is permitted with PFDs, but of course, swim at your own risk. Water quality on this journey varies due to point and non-point source pollution. Water quality is generally at its least healthy immediately following rain events—this is especially true downstream of urban areas or in places like Owl Swamp.
Private Property—Some of our paddles do take us past private property. Private property must be respected. It is illegal to trespass onto someone’s property, and it is an offense that is prosecutable by law. You may not enter someone’s property unless you have first received permission. At least one rest stop, with portable toilet facilities and/or restrooms will be available at the approximate midway point of each day’s paddle. Therefore, it is imperative that you make use of bathroom facilities when they are available. If nature calls, please use a camp trowel and cover all human waste appropriately or carry a sealable plastic bag to remove your waste with you.
Communication in the Event of Emergency—There will be cellular phones on the river at all times (one with the lead boat, one with the sweep boat and others in between). In the event of an emergency, attempt to signal or locate a boat with a cellular phone. If cellular service is available, the participants in these boats can communicate with land-based emergency personnel and on-the-water motorized boats where available.
Universal River Signals—Participants are expected to use universal river signals to communicate with other boats. They are as follows:
- Stop: Potential Danger Ahead—Form a horizontal bar with your paddle and outstretched arms above your head. Those seeing this signal should pass it back to others in the party. Participants should wait for the “all clear signal” before proceeding.
- All Clear—Form a vertical bar with your paddle, raising your arm and paddle above your head. The paddle blade should be turned flat for maximum visibility. This means the trip can proceed. To signal direction or preferred course through an obstacle, lower the all clear to a 45 degree angle toward the side of the river with the preferred route.
- Help/Emergency—Wave paddle over your head and give three long blasts on your whistle. Whistles are best carried attached to your life vest. This means other paddlers should assist the signaler as quickly as possible.
- I’m OK—Holding your elbow out to the side, repeatedly pat the top of your head with your hand. This signals that you are not hurt and do not need assistance.
As always, we ask that you communicate with us. Shout for help or blow your whistle that is provided on your PFD.