A low-head dam is a type of dam that is typically found in agricultural settings. These types of dams are designed to create a small reservoir for irrigation or other water-related purposes. Low-head dams are often unmarked and can pose a serious threat to unwary canoeists and kayakers.
What should you do when approaching a low-head dam in a canoe or kayak? You should avoid paddling over the dam if possible, and if you must paddle over it, be sure to do so with extreme caution.
In this article, we’ll discuss what low-head dams are, the dangers they pose, and how to safely paddle over them.
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What Should You Do When Approaching A Low-Head Dam In A Canoe Or Kayak?
When you’re out paddling in a canoe or kayak, you might come across a low-head dam. These structures are often found on rivers and can pose a serious threat to paddlers.
If you find yourself approaching a low-head dam, there are some things you should do:
1. Use Caution
When approaching a low-head dam, be sure to use caution. These structures can be very dangerous, and it’s important to paddle safely around them.
And it’s not just the dam itself that you need to be careful of—the currents created by the dam can also be dangerous.
2. Know Your Limits
It’s important to know your own limits when paddling around a low-head dam.
If you’re not comfortable paddling near the dam, or if you’re not sure you can safely maneuver around it, it’s best to turn back.
3. Stay Away from the Downstream Side
The downstream side of a low-head dam is particularly dangerous. The currents here can be very strong, and they can easily sweep paddlers away.
If at all possible, stay away from the downstream side of the dam.
4. Portage Around the Dam
If you can’t safely paddle around the dam, you’ll need to portage your canoe or kayak around it. This means carrying your boat and all of your gear over lands to the other side of the dam.
Portaging can be difficult, so be sure to plan ahead and allow plenty of time to do it.
5. Use Life Jacket
Whenever you’re paddling near a low-head dam, it’s a good idea to wear a life jacket. If you do end up in the water, a life jacket will help keep you safe.
However, a jacket alone is not enough—you also need to know how to swim. Be sure to take a swimming lesson before paddling near any dam.
6. Don’t Go Alone
Paddling near a low-head dam is always safer with a partner. If you do end up in the water, someone else will be there to help you.
Be sure to paddle with a friend or group, and make sure everyone knows the risks involved.
7. Know Your Plan
Before paddling near a low-head dam, it’s important to have a plan.
Know what you’re going to do if you find yourself in the water, and be sure everyone in your group is on the same page. Having a plan can help keep everyone safe.
Low-head dams can be dangerous, but if you use caution and know your limits, you can safely paddle around them.
Just be sure to stay away from the downstream side of the dam, and if you can’t safely paddle around it, portage your boat and gear around it. And always wear a life jacket when paddling near a low-head dam.
Even if you take all the necessary precautions, things can still go wrong when paddling near a low-head dam. That’s why it’s important to be prepared for an emergency.
Be sure to bring along a throw bag or other rescue device, and know how to use it. And always let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
Why Are Low-Head Dams So Dangerous For Kayakers And Canoeists?
It’s all about the hydraulic jump. When water flows over a dam and drops six feet or more, it does so in a big hurry.
That sudden increase in speed and decrease in water depth creates a feature called a hydraulic jump.
When kayakers and canoeists get caught in a hydraulic jump, they can be pulled under the water’s surface and held there by the force of the water.
The difficulty of escaping once trapped explains why the majority of bodies that have been recovered from near a dam’s base were discovered face-down, submerged in as little as four to six inches of water.
Low-head dams are particularly dangerous because they are often found on smaller rivers and streams, where people may not be aware of the dangers they pose.
And they are often located near urban areas, they can be easily accessed by kayakers and canoeists who may not have experience dealing with them.
If you’re planning on paddling in an area where low-head dams are present, it’s important to be aware of the risks they pose and take steps to avoid them.
How Can You Identify A Low-Head Dam Before You Approach It In A Canoe Or Kayak?
There are a few things to look for that can help you identify a low-head dam before you approach it in a canoe or kayak:
- The water level upstream of the dam will be higher than the water level downstream.
- There may be a noticeable drop in the water level as you approach the dam.
- The water flowing over the dam will be turbulent and may form a “boils” or “hydraulic jump” at the base of the dam.
- The water downstream of the dam may be calm in comparison to the water upstream, or there may be a large pool of still water below the dam.
If you see any of these signs, exercise caution and avoid paddling over the dam if possible. If you must paddle over the dam, be sure to do so with extreme caution.
When approaching a low-head dam in a canoe or kayak, always remember to stay safe and use common sense. If in doubt, portage around the dam or exit the water and walk around it. Never attempt to shoot the rapids below a low-head dam; the currents and turbulence can be deadly.
What Are Some Tips For Safely Paddling Past A Low-Head Dam If You Can’t Avoid It Altogether?
Some tips for safely paddling over a low-head dam include:
- Approaching the dam with caution and staying in the center of the channel.
- Being aware of the potential for strong currents and undertows near the dam.
- Exiting the water before reaching the dam and portaging around it if possible.
- Never attempting to shoot the rapids below a low-head dam as the currents can be deadly.
Are Low-Head Dams Beneficial For Canoeists Or Kayakers?
Low-head dams can actually provide some benefits for canoeists and kayakers. These benefits include:
- The dam can create a small pool of still water upstream that can be used for swimming or fishing.
- The dam can act as a natural filter, trapping sediment and other pollutants before they downstream.
- Low-head dams can also provide some habitat for fish and other aquatic creatures.
So, while low-head dams can pose a serious threat to unwary paddlers, they can also provide some benefits. When approaching a low-head dam in a canoe or kayak, always exercise caution and use common sense. If in doubt, portage around the dam or exit the water and walk around it.
I hope this article about what you should do when approaching a low-head dam in a canoe or kayak has been helpful. Remember, low-head dams can be very dangerous and should always be approached with caution. Thanks for reading!
Q1. What is a low-head dam?
A low-head dam is a type of dam that is often unmarked and can pose a serious threat to unwary canoeists and kayakers.
Q2: What is the purpose of a low head dam?
A: Low head dams are built for a variety of purposes, including irrigation, water supply, and flood control.
Q3: How are low head dams dangerous?
A: Low head dams can be dangerous because they can create a recirculating current below the dam, which can lead to drowning. They can also create hydraulic jump, which can flip over a canoe or kayak. And finally, they can create a lot of turbulence in the water, making it difficult to paddle and increasing the risk of capsizing.