Always wear a personal flotation device at all times when you are on the water.
The No. 1 safety precaution to take on the water: Wear a personal flotation device at all times. The Forest Preserve District requires people who rent kayaks and canoes at Monee Reservoir to wear a personal flotation device, or PFD. People participating in District-sponsored programs also must wear PFDs, and all children younger than 13 must wear them at all times when on the water.
“Always, always, always wear your PFD,” Ward said. “Anything can happen out there. You could be the best swimmer in the world, but if you hit your head or hurt yourself it could be very hard to swim. PFDs save lives.”
If you spend a lot of time on the water or find the bulky fit of a PFD to be uncomfortable or hindering your movement, look for one that fits well and is designed with activity in mind, Russell said.
“There are some really great options made for kayakers that allow for great range of motion and aren’t as hot,” she said. “Invest in a good, comfortable one if that is an issue for you.”
And it’s always a good idea to tell someone your plans before you leave, including when you will return, Ward said. Before you head out on the water, you can check water levels on the National Weather Service’s webpage monitoring flooding and water levels. Also, check the weather forecast beforehand to ensure storms aren’t moving in. Once out on the water, keep an eye on the sky, making sure storms don’t appear to be forming.
“Weather can be very unpredictable on hot and humid days,” she said.
It’s also important to make sure you are prepared for the sun. Wear sunscreen as well as sunglasses and a hat, Russell suggested. Sunscreen should be reapplied every 90 minutes.
Dress to get wet, and dress for submersion, Ward advised. Remember that the water may be colder than expected, especially early in the season when the temperatures are warm but the water has not yet begun to warm up.
“The water will be colder than you think,” Ward said. “You need to be aware of the risks and don’t paddle during those times unless you have proper paddling attire such as a dry suit.”
Later in the season, during the height of summer, make sure to wear breathable, fast-drying clothes that will help keep you cool and also dry quickly if you get wet.
Make sure to wear shoes or sandals with thick soles that won’t fall off while getting in and out. “No one wants a fishing hook in their foot,” Russell said.
And bring water to stay hydrated, but skip alcohol while paddling, Ward advises.
As always, be courteous to others on and around the water, including anglers and other boaters, and pay attention to your surroundings.
Kayak and canoe rentals and launch passes