Safety Information


Paddling the Wolf River in a canoe or kayak can be a wonderful experience. The quality of that experience, however, will depend largely on your training, forethought, planning, and follow-through. 

The Wolf River Conservancy recommends always paddling in groups of two or more, regardless of your skill level or experience. The level of skill you need to paddle the Wolf River depends on your physical condition, prior training and experience, and the paddling conditions of each river section. Please become familiar with all of the information provided in the Paddling the Wolf River pages on the the Conservancy website. If in doubt about your skills or how to find appropriate training, or for any other questions, please contact a Wolf River Conservancy-Certified River Guide, a local outfitter or paddling retailer, or the American Canoe Association, of which Wolf River Conservancy is an affiliate.

Your trip will be much more enjoyable, comfortable, and certainly safer if you bring along appropriate clothing, gear, medications, and other items, including a change of clothing in the event of a capsize, emergency gear, prescription or over-the-counter medications,  and a first aid kit.   Any river trip involves an element of risk, and it is absolutely necessary to be prepared for emergencies. Please read the following rules and recommendations, and consider them carefully in planning your trip.

 1. Life Jackets (PFD's)

Participants in Wolf River Conservancy float trips will be required to wear an approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD) while on the water. These are provided by the outfitters along with boat and paddle for those renting. Paddlers arranging their own trips are required by state law to have an approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD, or life jacket) for each person on board; children 12 years old or younger are required to wear a PFD at all times while on the water. For more information on Personal Flotation Devices, use this link.

WRC recommends that everyone wear a U.S.Coast Guard Approved life jacket (PFD) while onboard any kind of human-powered, natural-powered or motorized boat, on any body of water, at all times. Remember, a life jacket (PFD) must be properly fitted and sized to the person wearing it and must be worn correctly to work! Seek professional advice before attempting to use an unfamiliar life jacket.

 2. Boating Safety Rules

Familiarity with basic boating safety rules is strongly advised, especially for those arranging their own trips. Please read Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Safety Checklist for Canoeing and Paddle Sports. More information can be found at the TWRA Boating website and TWRA Paddlesports Laws.

 3. Always Assess your Skill Level

Although the Wolf is rated as a class one river (no whitewater), conditions can rapidly change. It is imperative that paddlers realistically evaluate their experience and abilities in regard to an anticipated trip, especially if considering bringing children along. If in doubt, ask a Conservancy River Guide.  Paddlers of any skill level should check both weather conditions and water level prior to departure. Please see below for more information.

 4. Don't Go Alone

No paddler, regardless of experience level, should paddle alone. Beginners are advised to seek out some type of formal training before paddling; afterwards, paddle only with highly experienced guides for the first few trips. The Conservancy membership trips are well-suited for beginners, depending on the river section, because they are led by experienced paddlers familiar with the route who provide limited basic instruction at the beginning of the trip. But please do not paddle with children as passengers unless you are an experienced paddler yourself and a parent or legal guardian.

  5. Water

Always bring plenty of drinking water, regardless of the season.

   6. Emergency Supplies

Always bring necessary allergy medications and emergency supplies such as a first aid kit, prescription medications you might need, a change of clothes to carry with you in the boat, flashlight, whistle, compass, rain gear, cell phone, sunscreen, insect repellent, snacks, etc, and a waterproof “dry” bag to hold these items. Local outfitters are a good source for other suggestions as well as ready-made kits and supplies; these can also be found online.

 7. Let Someone Know

Have a float plan. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.

  8. Check the Weather and River Level

Always check weather conditions and water level before your trip. Do not attempt a trip if the forecast indicates severe weather such as a thunderstorm. Do not attempt a trip during flood conditions. For weather conditions and forecast, use this link.

The Conservancy recommends not paddling any section of the Wolf River if the USGS River Level Gauge closest to the section being paddled reads 8 feet or above for lay paddlers or 9 feet and above for WRC Certified River Guides.  Use this link for the Wolf River Boat Access Map. Use the following links to check river levels:   

    Gauge at LaGrange    

    Gauge at Rossville    

    Gauge at Collierville    

    Gauge at Germantown

 9. Wear Appropriate Clothing

Always wear clothes and shoes suitable for conditions. During cold weather, it is essential to bring a full set of rain gear and at least one change of clothes in a dry bag in the boat with you to prevent possible hypothermia. Participants in Wolf River Conservancy trips should read applicable sections on "Cold Weather Paddling" included in the information sent prior to the trip. Denim and other types of cotton clothing are not recommended to be worn in or around water or while boating at any time of the year. Fast-drying synthetic polyester materials, which can be layered for cold weather conditions, are preferred.

Cold weather clothing suggestions: Neoprene booties, synthetic (e.g., fleece) or wool fabrics worn in layers, a hat, gloves. Avoid cotton clothing. Avoid waders or rubber boots which could fill with water. Water shoes or some form aquatic “bootie” is highly recommended. Protect your feet at all times.

Warm weather clothing suggestions: Neoprene booties or water shoes which fit securely, layered clothing, including synthetic fabrics, and a hat with a brim or visor. Avoid flip-flips and crocs which can easily slip off the foot, rubber boots, and waders. Water shoes or some form aquatic “bootie” is highly recommended. Protect your feet at all times.  A change of clothes in a dry bag is recommended. Be sure to bring sunscreen and insect repellent as well.

10. Other items to consider

Food and snacks, binoculars, camera, field guides, cell phone, sunscreen, insect repellent. Again, if you want to keep it dry, store it in a waterproof bag.

 11. Wolf River Conservancy Canoe Trip Release Form

Participants in Wolf River Conservancy member trips must sign a canoe trip waiver form which can be submitted online when registering. Paddlers ages 18 and older must sign a waiver. Participants under 18 must be accompanied by an adult who has legal responsibility. The responsible adult boater(s) must ensure their on board minors are capable and strong enough for the duration of the trip.

 12. Read the River Section Description

Please access and read the River Section Description for the section you will be paddling and the Wolf River Access Map, as well as the other information on our Paddling the Wolf River pages.

Other useful links:

Wolf River Conservancy Facebook Page (for updates and photos)

Wolf River photos at Images by the Grey Beard Adventurer