Keeping yourself safe

Canoeing is great fun, but water can be dangerous. Follow our tips for safe and enjoyable canoeing on our canals and rivers.

Two girls carrying a canoe down to the water Canoeing on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

As long as you follow a few basic rules, canoeing is a safe sport and accidents are rare. If you want to make the most out of the sport and get off to the best start then a canoeing course will show you all of the basic techniques. You can find a canoe club offering beginners courses at on the British Canoeing website.

The follwing tips will also help to keep you safe while you're out and about on the canal:

  • Novices should always be accompanied by an accomplished canoeist
  • Wear a life jacket or buoyancy aid while afloat
  • Check the local waterway safety regulations before you set out
  • Take care that your craft is suitable for the waterway and that you are competent to use it
  • Locks, weirs and sluices can be very dangerous. Don't stay aboard your craft in a filling or emptying lock - carry it around. If it is too heavy, use ropes to keep control from the side


Unpowered craft are not permitted through some canal tunnels or on parts of some larger river navigations. You can find more information on travelling through tunnels in our boating pages.

If you are permitted to use a tunnel, make sure that you carry a light and whistle to warn other craft of your presence. Travel through in groups if possible.

Find out which tunnels are open to canoes

For more tips on staying safe visit the British Canoeing website.

Last date edited: 31 January 2019