River Safety

A river trip should be exciting, but it can also be a dangerous experience. To avoid problems or injuries, it is important to prepare carefully for a safe trip.

The Delaware River does not have particularly hazardous rapids. At average water levels, the Upper Delaware has only a few Class II or II+ rapids. However, moving water can be deceptive and potentially treacherous, even for non-paddlers. More drownings on the Delaware River have been swimming-related than boating-related. In almost all cases, the victims were not wearing a properly fitted life jacket.

Planning for a safe river trip begins well before you get on the water and doesn't end until you return home. By following the steps and information listed below, you will better understand how to safely and comfortably enjoy the river.

Always be Prepared

rafting down the Delaware River in the summer photo

Protect yourself from heat-related illnesses. Heat cramps are the warning sign that the body is having trouble with the heat. Resting and drinking water will help prevent more serious illness like heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Do not drink river or stream water.

Call the Upper Delaware River Hotline at 845 252-7100. This recorded message is available 24 hours a day and is updated daily during the boating season. It provides the river height, air and water temperatures, boating conditions and general river safety information.

Have raingear. To protect against hypothermia, have clothing made of wool, polypropylene, high-performance fleece, or a wet suit. Immersion hypothermia is the numbing effect that cold water has on the body. Hypothermia is possible whenever the water temperature falls below 70° F. Loss of body heat is 25 times greater in cold water than in air of the same temperature.

Arrange drop off and pick up points before you leave.  Leave emergency phone numbers and vehicle description and tag numbers with someone who can report that you are overdue.

Alcohol makes you more susceptible to heat-related illness. In an emergency, it slows your response. Never impair your judgment while on the river.

Laws on underage drinking, possession of illegal drugs, disorderly conduct, and littering are strictly enforced!

It's easy to get burned before you realize it on a cool, refreshing river. Knees, backs of hands, neck and tops of feet are most susceptible to burns. Be sure you apply waterproof sunscreen or keep your skin covered.

Emergency Contact Numbers for the Upper Delaware:


National Park Service: 845 557-0222

New York State Police
Delaware County: 607 467-3215
Sullivan County: 845 252-3212
Orange County: 845 856-6500

Pennsylvania State Police
Honesdale: 570 253-7126
Blooming Grove: 570 775-7374

Your Safety is Your Responsibility

It's smart to wear a life jacket, while boating, tubing, fishing, wading, or swimming on the river. The National Park Service recommends that you always wear it when you're near the water. By law, all children 12 and under must wear a life jacket while on the river in any vessel, including inner tubes. Every person in a boat or using an inner tube must have a life jacket withing reach, not tied to the vessel. Each person's life jacket must be the proper size and in good condition.

Violators will be fined!

Kneel when canoeing in rapids to keep your weight low. This helps avoid capsizing. In rapids, aim for the downstream "V".

Paddle on opposite sides of the canoe. Hold onto your paddle, not the boat.

Paddle around eel weirs Avoid these large, "V"-shaped wooden and rock traps, usually constructed by late summer.

Always be courteous on the river You may encounter a variety of river users on your trip. Please respect their rights and act responsibly and ethically.

Don't panic. Stay upstream of the boat so it does not pin you against a rock.

Don't attempt to stand in rapids. Get on your back and keep your feet up and pointed downstream to push off obstacles.

Never swim against the current.  Backstroke and let the current assist you to shore.

kayaking safety pictureProtect the River and Others Around You

Obey all regulations and respect all resources

Boating and alcohol or other drugs don't mix. Never impair your judgment while on the river. Laws on underage drinking, possession of illegal drugs, disorderly conduct, and littering are strictly enforced!

Observe fishing limits and seasons. Display your fishing license properly; fishing regulations are enforced. Do not fish from any bridge.

Respect private property. More than 85 percent of the land along the river is privately owned.

Do not remove or deface cultural artifacts or natural features.

Don't litter. Be sure to tie all gear, except life jackets to your boat. Carry-in, carry-out. No glass containers on or near the river.

If you have questions or need assistance, look for National Park Service rangers or volunteers, who are there to help.

Respect the River

Don't Become a Statistic

Since 1980, when Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River began river operations, 50 drownings have been recorded on the Upper Delaware River.

48 of the victims were not wearing life jackets; the other 2 were not wearing their life jacket properly and it came off.

At least 20% of the deaths were drug or alcohol related fatalities.

Over 65% of the drownings occurred while victims were swimming or wading.


Upper Delaware Scenic Byway - Sections color chart Southern Gateway Section of the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway Lower Section of the Upper Delaware Scenic BywaysMid Section of the Upper Delaware Scenic BywayUpper Section of the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway Northern Gateway of the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway