Each weekend thousands of people and hundreds of personalities head for Missouri’s waterways. With this many people, there is bound to be friction, yet following a few simple rules of river courtesy can go a long way toward a peaceful, safe, and happy time for all.
The first and foremost rule is to leave the river in better shape than you found it. This means carrying your trash out with you and picking up any you find along the way. This includes cigarette butts, soda and beer cans, and plastic cups and bags. Most canoe/raft/kayak rentals include a mesh bag to hold your trash, and river courtesy demands that you use it.
The number two rule is to observe and obey ‘No Trespassing’ signs. While most people are river tourists, there is a sector of year round locals. Just as no one wants a stranger to wander into their suburban backyard, it’s important to remember that the riverbank where you’ve landed your canoe may be private property. No Trespassing and Private Property signs are put up in clearly visible locations. You should also know about the Purple Paint Law. Unless it’s an emergency, bypass these posted properties in favor of others that are open to the public. There are plenty; you won’t have any difficulty in finding one. There are far more open areas than not.
Rule three involves noise. Sound carries over water. Although you may think you’re speaking in a reasonable tone, others can hear you quite easily farther downriver. While everyone loves the sound of good-natured laughter, not everyone enjoys rough language or a bawdy drinking song. Especially families with small children.
Number four; accidents happen. No one likes it, but there’s no getting around it. If someone needs help; stop and help them. Like the song says, “people on the river are happy to give”. The favor will be returned to you someday. It’s river karma.
The last rule concerns diving. Before diving or swinging on that rope, check the water for depth and submerged rocks. Just because you dived off a particular rock or tree the last time you floated doesn’t mean you can do it this time. A moving body of water is a changing body of water. Swimming holes change with each rain. Never assume it’s safe until you check it out first.
Five rules. You can count them on the fingers of one hand, yet their importance is undeniable. With only a little effort, everyone can enjoy a relaxing day on the river. Commit these to memory. Practice them. Everyone will be glad you did.