Cold Waters Await Early Season Paddlers

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) encourages paddlers to be safe on the water this spring. While ice-out has occurred on most ponds and rivers in the Northeast, the cold weather caused later than usual melt conditions. The nonprofit’s safety information helps paddlers plan and prepare for spring conditions which include cold water temperatures, variable water levels, and unpredictable currents.

“Now is the time of year that as the weather gets warmer, paddlers start getting out on the water,” says Northern Forest Canoe Trail Executive Director Karrie Thomas. “It’s important to remember that water temperatures are cold enough to cause hypothermia very quickly, and water levels and currents are quite different in May than later in the spring and summer.”

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail features paddling safety and survival brochures on its website that provide clear information about how to set yourself up for safe and fun paddling adventures. “Wear It! Life Jackets Matter” and “Cold Water Survival” are free to the public at

Wear It! Life Jackets Matter stresses the importance of wearing a personal flotation device (PFD), and provides information on how to choose the right type and tips on finding the perfect fit. Nearly 70 percent of all drowning deaths involving canoes, kayaks, or rafts might have been avoided if the victim had been wearing a life jacket according to the U.S. Coast Guard Office of Auxiliary & Boating Safety.

Cold Water Survival gives suggestions on how to prepare for paddling in water temperatures ranging from 32.5°F to 60°F and higher, how to assess and treat symptoms of hypothermia, and describes the significant risks associated with cold water immersion and how to set yourself up to manage these risks.

Recommendations are aimed at paddlers on the 740-mile water trail, that runs from New York’s Adirondacks, through Vermont, Québec, New Hampshire, and northern Maine, but are common sense tips for safety in the outdoors whether paddling, fishing, or birding on or near the water this spring.  

The brochures were created by the Northern Forest Canoe Trail in partnership with Kokatat, the American Canoe Association, and the U.S. Coast Guard.


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