Paddler safety is our highest priority. Please review the tips below to ensure a safe and enjoyable day on the river at Paddlefest.

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General Safety information

  • All participants must sign a waiver to participate in Paddlefest, acknowledging that they have read the safety rules of participation.

  • The Ohio River will be closed to all commercial and public power boats until 12:30 pm.  Paddlefest participants must be at the Gilday Riverside Park take-out ramp by 12:30 pm.  Paddlers will be on their own recognizance after that time.

  • Pets are welcome but should be equipped with a suitable PFD and physically fit for hours on the water. 

  • Shorelines are slick and slippery.  Most injuries while paddling are due to falls, slips, trips, and back injuries while getting in/out or carrying vessels.  Take care when entering and exiting the water.

  • Weather conditions will likely get hotter, more humid, and windy towards the noon hour.  Be prepared with hat, sunscreen, and quick-dry clothing.  Fill up stations for water bottles will be provided at the start, midway point, and finish of the course.

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paddler safety

  • Participants must wear a Coast Guard Approved personal flotation device (PFD) fully fastened and secured at all times when on the Ohio River.  Removal of PFD constitutes a violation of the rules of participation in Paddlefest and the participant is no longer covered under the provisions of Paddlefest.

  • Participants must be at least 4 years old on the day of Paddlefest.  Parents of children under 12 are responsible for the child’s proper fit and wear of the PFD per manufacturer’s instructions.  Swimming pool flotation devices are not permitted.

  • All participants must be physically fit to endure at least 4 hours of paddling in hot and humid conditions.  Consideration should be given to any health concerns or medication that may be needed.  Participants must have the maturity and capability to handle a paddle and to swim while wearing a PFD.

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Boat Safety

  • Flat bottom, sail, catamaran, or powered vessels are prohibited from Paddlefest.

  • All boats must have a rigid, “V” shaped hull.  No inflatable boats will be permitted.

  • Per Coast Guard rules, a whistle or other means of signaling distress, must be on the vessel.

  • While on the river, stay at least 50 feet from docks, moored vessels, utilities and any other river obstacles.  NEVER paddle between moored vessel/barges and shorelines.  Underwater utilities are dangerous!


Numerous safety boats and safety paddlers will be located along the 9 mile route. Many of them will have on yellow or orange vests and signs on their boats and will be displaying Paddlefest Safety Patrol signs so you can easily locate then should you need help. Safety boats will be in communication with medical personnel and can help transport injured paddlers to shore-based medical assistance.


In case of on-the-water emergency, call 911.  Be sure to tell the 911 operators you are paddling on the river and try to give your exact location.  After calling 911, signal power safety boats on the water with distress signals (whistle, horn, flagging, or waving paddle).  If possible, in case of emergencies, pull to the Ohio shoreline.

If paddlers have a Maritime radio, channel 16 is the emergency channel to utilize if needed.