After death of kayaker along New River, experts offer tips for safe kayaking on area waterways

Local News

BUCHANAN, Va. (WFXR)– Special operations crews in the New River Valley worked for two days to locate a missing kayaker along the New River this weekend. However, the body of 56-year-old Charles Wallace was recovered below a set of water rapids known as “Arsenal Falls” on Sunday.

Investigators say he had a personal flotation device onboard, but he was not wearing it when he went into the water.

John Mays, owner and manager of Twin River Outfitters in Buchanan, says the number one rule of kayaking is knowing the different types of water, which boat you are using, and adhering to all safety protocols before going on the water.

According to Mays, if a person is interested in boating on a river, paddle only in water that you understand. There are many online resources that can inform kayakers, and other boaters, on the correct river water levels.

“There is the upper James River Water Trail website, that has guidance for the James River. There is Roanoke River Blueway, the New River Blueway website all have information that gives guidance on what the right water levels are. They all have links to the water level gauges that are real-time,” said Mays.

He also stresses that drinking on the river is not allowed. It can cause the boat to tip over, or impair the vision of the paddler. Other safety tips, like watching out for strainers, will keep boaters safe.

“Strainers are trees that fall into the water, and you can get your boat caught in the branches that are sticking out, “said Mays.

If the water is calm, it can be easier to get around it. If the water turns into a set of rapids, it makes it difficult to maneuver and potentially can drown someone.

Knowing how to swim is key before doing any water activity. If the boat flips over, paddlers should be able to swim, while wearing a coastguard-approved life jacket.

It is also recommended to carry a cellphone at all times. Most boats come with a waterproof box to put essentials inside. A cellphone can help to contact anyone if they are in need.

“Most outfitters will use a specific map to show you where the rapids are, or do that in a verbal orientation and highlight the different rapids and how to run them,” said Mays as he described the best ways to learn the water in different parts of Virginia.

Kayaks and other forms of boats can be found at places like Walmart, or various big box stores. However, Mays says local knowledge is better when it comes to that purchase because outfitters like Twin River can tell you the specific type of boat for the different types of rivers you’ll be paddling.

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