Beginning Guide to Whitewater River Features
This guide is intended to familiarize novice paddlers with features found on a wild river. Keep in mind, though, experience is more helpful than reading (though reading does help) and if you are a novice, it's always a good idea to take lessons from a competent kayaking instructo or have someone with lots of experience in your group before you tackle a difficult river.
It's also a good idea to start small, by getting good at Class II rapids before you take on Class III, etc.
Imagine a spaghetti strainer. You dump a pot of spaghetti and water into it. The holes in the strainer let water through, but the spaghetti gets trapped.
Strainers on a river work in a similar way, except you are the spaghetti that gets trapped.
Strainers are often caused by fallen trees or tree limbs, or exposed tree roots near the banks of a river. When the water level gets particularly high, strainers can be bushes or other plants that would normally be on dry ground.
In swift moving water strainers are dangerous because once you get trapped in one, water pushes you into it. Water can go through the strainers, but big objects (like kayaks or kayakers) can't. If a strainer has you pinned underwater, it could be fatal.
Not all strainers are of natural origin. Metal grates and man-made debris can also create a strainer.
If you do get stuck in a strainer, evaluate if you need to get over or around it. The best way to get out depends on the strainer and the strength of the water flow through it.
Even better than getting yourself out of a strainer is never getting in one in the first place.
Because fallen trees are a common source of strainers, and because trees can fall any time, you should have your eyes open for this sort of hazard. You may have paddled the same river yesterday, but a new hazard may have appeared overnight.