NYS DEC Paddling Tips

For DEC Paddling Tips visit: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/100898.html

Important information from the DEC site if you are planning a canoe or kayak trip:


Always wear a personal flotation device (PFD, aka life jacket) while on or along the water. Especially when water temperatures are cold or when currents are swift.

  • Immersion in cold waters can quickly result in lowering of core body temperature, leading to inability to move, hypothermia and drowning. Wearing a PFD can prevent drowning.
  • Falling in to swift currents can easily result in being pulled and kept under water and collisions with rocks, logs and other objects causing injury. A PFD can prevent drowning. A helmet is strong recommended when paddling in whitewater and other swift currents.
    State law requires all children under 12 to wear a PFD while on a watercraft.
  • State law also requires all people on a pleasure vessel less than 21 feet long to wear a PFD between November 1 and May 1.
  • Large waves can form on large waters bodies with steady winds. Heavy winds can create large waves on small and medium-sized water bodies. Know your abilities and the forecast for wind before setting out.
  • Turn your canoe or kayak to point into large waves (or wakes from motorboats) to prevent being overturned
  • Find shelter on shore when you hear thunder.
  • Hire a guide if you are unsure if your skill levels meet the challenges of paddling.
  • See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association for information on outdoor guides.
  • Additional information on Outdoor Safety
  • For more information about paddling requirements & paddling safety, visit the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historical Preservation (OPRHP) boating page.


  • When paddling in waters with motorboats:
    • Keep close to the shorelines and out of the channels to allow safe passage of motorboats; and
    • Groups should paddle behind one another not abreast to prevent blocking passage of motorboats and other paddlers
  • Do not block carries (portage trails), put-in or take out sites with your watercraft or gear.
  • Load your gear out of the way of others who are ready to launch or retrieve
  • Watch ahead when portaging, so you don’t run into others using the portage trail.
  • Speak quietly to not disturb others, sound carries across water.


  • Know the rules of the lands & waters you will be recreating on
  • Know the principles of Leave No Trace.
  • Carry out what you carry in.
  • Pack all gear, supplies, clothing and food in waterproof bags which is strapped or secured to the kayak, canoe or raft. If you overturn you will be able to retrieve your belongings and not litter the water.


DEC provides many access points throughout the state. These include both hand launch and boat launch sites. Hand launch sites allow for the launching of non-trailered (aka car top) watercraft such as canoes, kayaks, john boats and other small boats. Some hand launches are for watercraft with or without outboard motors, many hand launches are watercraft without motors – check the regulation.

Boat launches are mainly for trailered boats, but non-trailered watercraft may use them as well. Paddlers should share the boat ramp and docks with other users and launch quickly and safely.

Lake Champlain is used by motor boats of all sizes. Waves can be extremely big when it is windy especially if the wind is out of the north or the south. Paddlers should use caution – paddle during the morning when winds are low and stick close to shore as much as possible.

Valcour Island has only one usable dock at this time which is located at the Seton House near the southern end of the island. Paddlers and small boats can access the island on the shores of Bulhead Bay, North Bay, Butterfly Bay (including the “picnic area”), and in the vicinity of campsites 21 and 22 on the eastern shore.


To learn more from the DEC website about Valcour Island’s hiking trails visit: http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/105779.html

The 12 miles of hiking trails on Valcour Island are the only designated trails on any of the islands. The trail system extends from the southern end, looping around the circumference, and includes two bisector trails that cut through the center of the island. The trails around the island provide for an excellent natural experience and offer great scenic vistas.

Rules for hiking and camping on state land can be found at: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7872.htm