River Safety

have fun, stay safe.

The Happy Hippie Cottage LLC is not responsible for any accidents, illness or injury incurred during your stay or based on your usage of any of the provided information. 

What You Need To Know

To Stay Safe and Have the most Fun On The Rappahannock!

Growing up on the shores of the Rappahannock from Warsaw all the way to Deltaville, the Connells learned many a lessons the hard way.

Like the fact that jellyfish – only referred to us (inaccurately) as “stinging nettles” until our adult lives, when we found out that stinging nettles are, in fact, a plant – SUCK. Not literally – they actually “fire harpoon-like barbs into the victim” (source credit here).

A friend had an encounter with  a jellyfish while swimming across the Urbanna Creek and later told me she thought she was having a stroke – she had no idea she’d been stung by a jellyfish.

So this page is dedicated to educating our guests about how to stay safe and have the most fun during your stay! While this is not, by any means, a comprehensive list of water safety rules, we’ve done our best to compile everything we know to help you stay safe and have tons of fun!

And, for the fishermen and women, we’ve included some bonus material to help you keep your family fed and your cooler full!

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White caps, shown here, are an indication of rougher waters and caution is advised for all water-related activities. 

Picture courtesy of https://outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/20325/what-is-a-whitecap-and-why-should-i-be-concerned-about-boating-in-them.

River Currents

What is a "current"?

According to National Geographic:

 “A river current is the water moving in a river. Rivers flow from high points to lower ones and eventually down to a larger body of water. The force of gravity, which makes the water flow downward, creates river currents.

Many factors contribute to the strength of river currents. River currents are influenced by the volume, or amount, of water flowing in a river.” 

ROUGH CURRENTS CAN BE DEADLY!!!!!!!!!!

You may have heard stories on the news recently about “human chains” created to save swimmers caught in rip currents, often called “rip tides”. Sometimes everyone makes it out alive – and sometimes they don’t.

Rough currents can be deadly. Let me repeat myself – ROUGH CURRENTS CAN BE DEADLY

Rip tides are an example of extremely tumultuous currents and no one should be in or on the river when they’re happening.

Gauging the river currents

After all of that, the good news is that gauging the river current is actually pretty easy! 

A flat river is a welcoming river. Swimming should be pleasant and paddling is a dream as the water is calm.

Some waves mean the current is stronger, the wind is blowing or a change in the weather is coming. If you’re a confident and strong swimmer, swimming and paddling should still be okay – with some caution.

White caps, pictured in the image to the left, are an indication that the water is rough. Swimming MIGHT be okay, but paddling is going to be more difficult – especially when you’re going AGAINST the current. 

The Tides

What are "tides"?

Throughout the day, you will notice that the water level of the river changes. These changes are called “tides”. As the tides change, so will the water.

Why Tides Matter

Paying attention to the tides, as well as the changing of the tides, is extremely important for maintaining safety on the water. As the tides change, not only will the water level, but frequently so will the current. (More on this later.) The color of the water will also frequently change throughout the day as the tides and currents change. 

High and Low Tide

At high tide, the water level will rise – very significantly, at times. At low tide, the water level lowers. A good way to gauge the tide levels is to look at the “stains” on the docks surrounding the cottage.

How The Tides Affect Fun on the river

Typically the changing of the tides does not affect your fun on or in the water. It may affect how far out you want to swim or paddle, but the changing of the tides can often happen without much notice.

At an extremely low tide, the cottage offers a beach! MOST of the time the water comes all the way to the seawall. 

Water Temperatures

What is the ideal water temperature for swimming?

According to the National Centers for Environmental Education:

“There’s no real optimal temperature. It’s more of a question of preference. A little cooler than your body temperature (98.6° Fahrenheit) should not be too cold so that you don’t get chilled. 70° to 78° Fahrenheit is the range where most folks feel “comfortable” swimming.”

Cool Waters Can Lead to Hypothermia

Hypothermia, or when your body temperature drops below 95 degrees, is a very serious and dangerous condition. If the water is too cold and you don’t have the necessary protection (from a wetsuit, for example), prolonged periods in the river can lead to life-threatening conditions. 

Don't Assume Anything

Just because the sun is shining and it’s warm outside it doesn’t mean that it’s safe to be in, and therefore ON, the water.

Even experienced paddlers can find themselves in unexpected conditions that can capsize your floatation device. Even with a life jacket, prolonged periods in cool or cold waters can be dangerous.

Wetsuits are recommended for those who want to be in or on the water in cooler temperatures.

JELLYFISH!

The silent stingers

Unlike many of the creatures in nature that bite and sting, jellyfish can attack with little or no warning to their victims.

In fact, you can get stung by a jellyfish and not even know it at first. The jellyfish’s nettles, which are the part that stings you, are actually quite soft and their contact can easily go unnoticed. What you will notice is the lingering affects of their sting. 

Can Jellyfish be avoided?

Unfortunately, not really. The only way to truly avoid jellyfish is to swim in waters in which jellyfish do not invade.

I have heard some people say that swimming in panty hose can help to avoid the sting of a jellyfish but I cannot attest to this fact.

Jellyfish typically start showing up in early-mid summer and they stick around until it starts to get colder again.

Because they like the saltier water, there may be fewer in the river after heavy rains.

What to do if you get stung

While a jellyfish sting is painful, it is typically not a dangerous situation – at least not with the variety of jellyfish typically found in the Rappahannock River. It is mostly just a painful annoyance.

If you get stung by a jellyfish, baking soda, vinegar and meat tenderizer have been said to help lessen the sting.

Jellyfish in the Rappahannock River can very drastically in size, color, length of nettles, level of sting and species!