Safety tips and water levels

Water levels

The Federal Office for the Environment provides weekly information on the current hydrological situation and changes during coming days. The bulletin is issued more frequently in special situations. No flood warnings are circulated in this way. Please also note the information in the right-hand column on current water levels of canoeing routes provided by Canoeing in Switzerland.

Canoeing and kayaking safely

Canoeing and kayaking look easy, but they’re more challenging than you might think. The BFU has some important safety tips to ensure that nothing spoils the fun.
Available in German, French and Italian.

For your safety

Canoeing is not dangerous if carried out correctly! But there are dangers that all paddlers must be aware of.
Waters are active and seasonal but also subject to constant rapid short-term changes caused by weather conditions.
Therefore, watch the weather forecasts and check water levels when planning a canoe tour and keep a careful check on current developments when underway. If you feel uncertain, seek advice from experienced paddlers, professional canoe providers, canoe schools or clubs. Do not go on a tour alone.


Currents, waves, obstacles etc. can cause your boat to capsize. Swimming can quickly become difficult, particularly in cold water and currents. Good swimming skills and wearing a life jacket are thus essential requirements!


Obstacles in the water are particularly dangerous when coupled with currents. Be alert, look ahead and paddle in a wide arc around trees and branches, bridge piers, posts, stones and rocks, buoys, ropes, moored boats etc. If you get caught up, try to lean towards the obstacle, so that water pressure on the boat is reduced.
Trees and branches are particularly dangerous as you can get caught on them and dragged underneath.


Paddle in cold water only if you are certain of not capsizing, and protect yourself with suitable clothing (neoprene suit, paddling jacket, cap, spare clothing).

Wind and waves

Wind and waves make it more difficult or even impossible to make headway and manoeuvre on a lake. Choose another route, a type of boat that is less affected by wind (kayak instead of Canadian canoe) and stay close to the shore, or enjoy the hours on land until the wind dies down.
Avoid water if lightning threatens.


Currents are as exciting as they are dangerous. Those who can take advantage of them make elegant and rapid progress. In contrast, currents can press your boat precariously against an obstacle, oversteer or capsize it. Try to identify current variations and read the water for a prudent choice of course and use the power of the current to steer the boat. Observe the course of the river, (bends and obstacles) and always try to turn the boat in the right direction in good time and paddle away from obstacles. Learn the handling characteristics of the boat, and practice traverses when there is little current and clear passages, moving in and out in eddies and avoiding obstacles. Paddle out only if you know where and how you can stop again.

Power stations and weirs

Boats must be carried around power stations and weirs according to the signs displayed. Stop in good time as indicated because powerful eddies and currents, undertows, and man-made riverbank construction can be life-threatening traps for paddlers. Harmless-looking weirs should also always be approached with the utmost caution.