Kayakers – beware of April showers

Outdoor Adventure Programmer

Outdoor Adventure programmers kayaking on the Scioto River after launching from Scioto Grove Metro Park. Photo Megan Harris

Kayaking is one of the most popular activities that the Metro Parks’ Outdoor Adventure team has to offer. Sometimes we offer kayaking programs on lakes, like those at Prairie Oaks or Quarry Trails, while other times we like to add even more adventure by going down the Scioto River. These programs start at either Scioto Grove or Scioto Audubon Metro Parks. Floating down the river, however, comes with a few extra parameters that kayakers need to be cautious of, including the river’s flow rate. If the river is moving too swiftly, it can become impossible to stop your boat, let alone navigate around natural obstacles in the river like fallen trees.

For our river programs, we have limits for the fastest acceptable flow rate at which it is still safe for kayaking. From the north canoe launch at Scioto Grove, for example, programs will be canceled if the rate exceeds 500cfs. What is a cfs, you ask? Cfs stands for cubic feet per second, and can be found on the US Geological Survey website, or with a quick Google search. Luckily for us, this information is readily available, with readings being taken every 15 minutes. The image below shows an example of cfs readings on the Scioto River for a very rainy week in January, when the river flow rate was over 10,000 cfs! The flow rate of our rivers must be evaluated separately at each section because every section is not the same. A wider, more shallow stretch of river will generally have a much slower flow rate than one that is narrow and deep when fed with the same amount of water.

Scioto River flow rate from launches in Columbus, Ohio, late January 2024.

While there are many other factors that can determine how quickly a river flows, a primary factor is the amount of rain that its watershed has received. In general, a large rain event will cause the river to flow much more quickly and, in turn, make the time during and immediately after a very dangerous timeframe to be kayaking. Depending on how much rainfall has occurred, perilous conditions may persist in the coming days.

In conclusion, the next time a flowing river is calling your name to get in your kayak and go, be sure to take a minute and think about whether or not it’s actually safe to be out. Has it rained a lot recently? Or, just go online to check out when Outdoor Adventure’s next river float is, and register!

5 thoughts on “Kayakers – beware of April showers

    1. When you click on the link to search for programs, type kayak into the search field on the left and click search. If we have any programs coming up, they will be listed there. You might not see very many until it gets warmer.

    1. Hello Larry – the article was written by one of our Outdoor Adventure programmers, and she related it to the programs offered by her Outdoor Adventure department. Park naturalists at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park will continue to provide their own kayaking and canoeing programs on the Darby Creeks.

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