A family glides peacefully down the Columbia River on Saturday, June 29th. Photo by Lorene Keitch

River safety 101

Get your kids trained on river safety heading into summer adventures

We went on a canoe paddle down the Columbia River last weekend, launching in Invermere and taking a leisurely four-hour trip downriver to Radium Hot Springs. The scenery was breathtaking, the peace was soothing, and the picnic lunch stop in the middle was relaxing on the splendidly-warm mud beach.

We are not expert paddlers by any means. We drop our outdated, tippy canoe into the local waters a couple times each year. And this year, I am ashamed to admit, was our very first time doing the Invermere to Radium route. The day was perfect for it – overcast, warm, a few short bouts of summer rain, and a burst of sunlight as we neared the end of our trip.

But I could imagine, as our two children rocked the boat unintentionally back and forth, careening us close to the tipping point multiple times, how quickly a perfect excursion could turn into a terrifying ordeal. The water was COLD. Once the Toby Creek’s glacial hues blended into the Columbia’s, the tepid temperature reminded me we were in a real river, not some Disney ride. We all were wearing lifejackets, everyone in the boat knows, to varying degrees, how to swim, and the shore was never far away.

But still. The chance of a mishap is high in the water, no matter how experienced you are. And opportunities to play in the lakes and rivers of the Columbia Valley are everywhere, so it is a wise choice to make sure you are educated on water safety, and that those you love know what to do should they run into trouble on the river.

Columbia River Paddle reached out to us too late this week for a story on their upcoming River Wise program. But not too late to write an editorial on the course. They are offering a River Wise program for kids from age 10-17 this July. Program coordinator Brenna Kelly says kids can learn about the rivers in a fun, safe, and educational program that was put together by Rescue Canada, the nationally-recognized association that trains law enforcement officers, firefighters, search and rescue personnel and anyone else who may require training. The program imparts on kids a healthy respect for the rivers, so they can enjoy fun-filled, safe adventures, and identify and avoid any dangers that may be present. Ms. Kelly says by the end of the day, children should be able to identify and avoid hazards, understand river hydrology as well as wade and swim through class one rapids.

If my kids were old enough for this program, I would be signing them up in a paddle’s stroke of time. After all, I don’t want them to be scared of our rivers. I want them to embrace the Kootenay lifestyle, and be secure knowing they have the knowledge to stay safe on the water.

The one-day training sessions run July 8th, 9th, 10th, or 11th. To register, visit https://adventurepaddleschool.com/more-lessons/.

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