Safety has been a core issue for AW since 1954, and today we are leaders in accident analysis and safety education. Formal risk management is part of all our programs. We work hard to publicize safe practices that help every American enjoy our rivers safely, and we advise legislative bodies and river managers on the best ways to educate whitewater paddlers. If you look back through the pages of the August 1955 and Winter 1957 American Whitewater Journal, you’ll see the International Scale of River Difficulty, the codification of a class I-IV whitewater classification system, was developed internationally and adopted and promoted by American Whitewater. Outdoor recreation and whitewater paddling specifically have inherent risks, however many whitewater accidents, especially for less experienced boaters, are preventable with some very basic whitewater safety knowledge.

  • Always Wear Your PFD (personal flotation device, commonly known as a life jacket)
  • Research the River You Plan to Paddle: Whitewater Difficulty, Optimal Flow Levels, Current Hazards, Predicted Weather, Remoteness
  • Avoid Extreme Weather and High Flows
  • Avoid Dams
  • Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

Safety News

2020-11-09 19:08:18-05

Midnight Miracle at Kanawha Falls

A Tennessee kayaker was rescued after spending 8 hours trapped behind the veil of Kanawha Falls, a 15 foot dr...

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2020-10-19 11:49:32-04

Useful Links to Low-Head Dam Safety Issues

A discussion of low head dam hydrology, and what features make a dam dangerous, and how to mitigate them.

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2020-04-14 16:44:20-04

Kayakers assist the WV-DNR on a Recovery

On February 9th, 2020 kayaker Jamie Gray was killed on the Middle Fork of the Tygart river in West Virginia. The next day the state DNR closed the ...

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2020-04-14 11:51:09-04

Good Article on Flush Drowning from Outside Magazine

An interesting article in Outside Magazine, based on a research paper done with information stored in the American Whitewater Accident Database. Ce...

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2019-07-09 09:48:40-04

Community Voices: Respect the River, River Surfers Should Wear PFDs

I can't keep my mouth shut any longer. I've been troubled the past couple weeks with the direction river surfing is going. I've been wrestling with...

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2013-06-12 12:23:00-04

AW Partners with Dam Safety Researcher

American Whitewater's Accident Database contains more than 1000 fatal accidents and near misses reported over the last 35 years. We sometimes ...

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2013-01-09 13:49:00-05

Life and Death Beyond the Edge

An article by Adam Herzog discusses risk taking, death, and other issues for Class V kayakers. First Published in Site Zed, a web site for thoug...

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2012-10-02 21:31:00-04

Adding Death into the Equation


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