From the Iowa DNR

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recommends that paddlers wait for consistent warm weather to allow the water temperatures to rise slowly. It could be several weeks before water temperatures are ideal and safe as water and air temperatures continue to change.

“Air temperatures are warmer than normal this year, but the water is still dangerously cold,” said Todd Robertson, Iowa DNR River Programs water trails coordinator. “We have not had enough consistently warm days to raise water temperatures adequately. Cold water shock and hypothermia can set in quickly if you fall into the water at current temperatures.”

Safety tips for paddling in cold-water conditions

  • Always wear a life jacket. Not only does the life jacket help keep your head above water, it helps to keep your organs warmer.
  • Don’t paddle alone, especially in cold water, use a buddy system. Go with a small group of paddlers and know which paddler has the most experience.
  • Let a friend or loved one know where you are going and when you are expected to return. It will be easier to find you if you need help.
  • Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. Plan as if you were to be in the water at some point. A wetsuit or drysuit is a must. Dress in layers so you can peel a layer off if you get overheated.
  • Bring along a dry bag with extra clothing to change into should you get wet. Get out of wet, cold clothing as soon as possible. Having the right gear and understanding the stages of hypothermia is crucial for remaining safe.
  • Stay away from strainers, wood/branch piles that can pull a paddler under. These are usually found on outside river bends where the current is going and are deadly hazards that must be avoided.