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The joys of winter kayaking

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After days or weeks of snow and cold we get the itch to get out and do something adventurous. If the weather warms up for a few days, try some winter kayaking.

There will be very few paddlers and boaters out on the water during this time of the year so you may have the entire waterway to yourself.

Dressing properly and taking a few precautions can make this one of your best paddle experiences of the year. Two of the most important safety issues are: don’t go alone and always wear your PFD! All persons in Pennsylvania must wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD or life jacket) during the cold weather months from November 1st through April 30th while underway or at anchor on boats less than 16 feet in length or any canoe or kayak.

It is best to go only on bodies of water you are familiar with. Don’t go if weather conditions aren’t favorable. If there are high winds, high waters or ice chunks all over the water; STAY OFF! Rivers can be fast from melting snow and winter winds can play havoc on large lakes and ponds. You really need to use a lot of common sense at this time of the year.

Wear several layers of clothing to stay warm. Make sure you wear a knit cap, waterproof gloves and even a wetsuit if you have one. Take extra clothing along if you get wet. Also, take a camera (put it in a dry bag) for some potentially great photos and don’t forget to take along some drinking water.

Getting wet when the water is cold is not something you want to have happen. Cold water removes heat from the body 25 times faster than cold air. So your entry and exit better be perfect. For the novice or beginner it is best to wait for waterways to warm up in late spring or during the summer.

Remember, hunters use many waterways during extended fowl seasons during the cold months. They may be in a boat which is highly camouflaged and have decoys in the water; so stay clear. For more info on hunting seasons in Pennsylvania visit the PA Game Commission website.