River Tours Policy & FAQ

River Tours Policy

COVID-19 Policy

The spread of the respiratory illness, COVID-19, that is caused by the novel coronavirus SARSCoV-2, has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. COVID-19 is extremely contagious and is believed to be spread primarily from person-to-person contact. As a result, federal, state, and local governments and federal and state health agencies recommend social distancing.

Before You Go

  • If you or anyone in your household is has tested positive for or is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for or exhibited COVID-19 symptoms in the last 10 days, do not attend any Waterkeeper function or tour.

During

  • All volunteers and tour participants are expected to follow New York State Department of HealthCoronavirus Guidance and Regulations related to COVID-19.\
  • This includes practicing appropriate social distancing and wearing face masks. If you do not have a mask one will be provided for you.
  • Hand sanitizer will be provided.

By participating in any event with Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper you acknowledge the contagious nature of COVID-19 and voluntarily assume the risk of exposure or infection that may accompany the activities you intend to perform. I release, covenant not to sue, discharge, and hold harmless Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, its employees, agents, and representatives, of and from injury, illness, damage, loss, claim, liability, or expense of any kind related to COVID-19 that I may experience or incur in connection with my participation in volunteer or tour events/activities. I attest that I will not attend any in-person event hosted by Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper unless I meet the safety measures listed above.

In Addition, BNW Staff Promise To

  1. Limit the number of participants to keep group sizes small.
  2. Regularly sterilize equipment.
  3. Not work a tour if we have signs and symptoms of Covid 19, have traveled outside of NY in the last 10 day, have tested positive for covid 19 in the past 2 weeks, or have been around someone who has tested positive in the last 2 weeks.
  4. Wear masks.

Participant Requirements

Participants under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. All participants are responsible for wearing appropriate clothing for the weather conditions, proper foot attire, bringing water, food, and any needed medicine or medical devices for themselves or children.

  • Kayak Tour – All participants for a paddle tour must be 12-years-old or older. Participants under the age of 16 must ride in a tandem kayak with a parent or guardian over the age of 18. All participants are required to attend paddling safety training session before launch, and wear a PFD with a whistle attached to it.  PFDs with attached whistles can be provided by Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper at no extra charge.
  • Walking/Snowshoe/Hiking – Participants of all ages are welcome. Participants under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Event Policy

No alcohol, drug use, or smoking by any tour staff or participant is allowed during any tour. Children under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Pets are not permitted on kayak tours. Certified service animals are permitted on other tours. Individual guests may be barred from participating in a tour at the discretion of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper staff.

Cancellation Policy

  • Kayak Tour – Will be cancelled if the combined air and water temperate is under 120 degrees Fahrenheit, winds are above 25 mph, 50% or greater chance of thunderstorms, when a Small Craft Advisory is in effect for Lakes Erie or Ontario, if a Combined Sewer Overflow event has occurred directly upstream or along the tour route in the last 24 hours, or cancelled/shortened at the discretion of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper staff.
  • All other tours will be canceled if there is a 50% or greater chance of thunderstorms or canceled/shortened at the discretion of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper staff.

Frequently Asked Questions

Registration is full for the tour I want to attend. Can I get on a waiting list?

For safety reasons, equipment limitations, and to ensure a fun time, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper limits the number of participants on each tour. Prior registration is required for all tours! If you would like to be on a wait list, you can email Robert: rcoady@bnwaterkeeper.org.

Do I have to provide my own kayak, life vest, or paddle?

No! We can provide kayak, life vest, and paddle. However, if you have your own, you can also bring yours. When you register you will be asked if you will need a BNW kayak or if you will bring your own. If you need a kayak but not a life vest or paddle, you will just select BNW kayak and bring your other supplies with you the day of.

Who can participate on a tour?

Participants under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

  • Kayak Tour – All participants for a kayak tour must be 12-years-old or older. Participants under the age of 16 must ride in a tandem kayak with a parent or guardian over the age of 18. Participants must be in adequate physical health to include (but not limited to) carrying a kayak with assistance, bending and crouching to enter the kayak, balancing oneself in a kayak, and being able to paddle at a leisurely pace for 2 hours.
  • Snowshoe/Hiking/Biking Tours – Participants of all ages are welcome. Participants under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

What skill level do I need before going on a kayak tour?

None! Our tours are a great way for beginners to get accustomed to outdoor recreational activities. We offer a skills and safety training before kayak tours, as well as guidance while on the water. Some tours are labeled as extended tours and beginners are welcome on these tours as well but should know prior to the tour if they are comfortable being on the water for at least 3 hours.

What should I wear or bring to a tour?

Please wear comfortable and appropriate clothing for the weather and outdoor recreation. Tours will still occur in light rain or snow, so be sure to have clothing that can match the conditions. Please bring ample water, as dehydration is a serious risk during any season.

  • Kayak Tour – Clothing materials that dry easily are preferred as you will get some drips and splashes from your paddle strokes.  Footwear should be either water shoes, water boots, or sneakers/sandals you do not mind getting wet.  NO FLIP FLOPS.
  • Walking/Snowshoe/Hiking Tours – Please wear appropriate footwear based on the weather and activity (Snow boots, hiking boots, sneakers).
  • Biking Tours – Please wear appropriate footwear (NO FLIP FLOPS). Helmets are required to be worn by all participants and are not provided by Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper. High visibility clothing is recommended, but not required. Reflective safety vests will be available if desired. Staff will have basic bike/tire repair equipment available for emergency use.

Where are the Bike Tours? What happened to them?

Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper did at one point offer bike tours and can still provide them upon request through our custom program service. However, because of low turnout we have removed them from our regular schedule. We may host special bike tour events in the future.

Can I bring my pet on a tour?

Pets are not permitted on kayak tours. Certified service animals are permitted on other tours.

What should I do before a tour?

Make sure you have registered and received a confirmation email. Make sure to check your email the day before the tour. We will contact you before the tour and provide important information about the site, directions, and other important information. The initial email has your confirmation and information about the tour site. Read the email and follow the instructions and you’ll be fine!

What should I expect when I arrive?

You will be greeted by our wonderful staff that will check you in and process your waiver form.

  • Kayak Tour – You’ll then be fitted with a PFD, paddle, and assigned a kayak, unless you are bringing your own boat.  We will help you adjust your foot rests on land so you don’t need to fuss with them while on the water. Once the full group has arrived, we will circle up and go do a brief introduction, safety training, as well as paddle stroke demonstrations to help you before you get on the water. Then, we bring our kayaks to the launch site and get everyone in. All participants must attend the safety briefing at the beginning of the tour even if you have been paddling for years. We’re finally on the water!
  • Snowshoe Tour – If renting a pair of our snowshoes, you’ll then be assigned your pair. We are there to help adjust foot straps if needed!

What should I expect during the tour?

Your tour leader will set the pace as they lead the group to cool places along the waterway. We’ll stop occasionally along the tour to talk about the theme for the tour and our surroundings. Some tours may also feature guest speakers for additional information. Please bring questions and we will do our best to answer them!

  • Kayak Tour –  The safety paddler will stay in the back to keep an eye on everyone.  An intern will be floating in the middle to assist further.  All staff and interns will be available to help you with any questions you have and to assist with paddling skills. The tour will begin to head back at a reasonable time so that everyone is able to exit the water and bring the boats to shore by the ending time.

What should I expect after the tour?

An exhilarating rush of love for our waterways and exercise!  (We hope.)  We asked that everyone help us bring their rented equipment (kayaks and snowshoes) near our van (with assistance) and return any other equipment (paddles and PFDs).  After that, the night/day is still young, so feel free to go where the night/day takes you (local restaurant, event or venue, sleep, etc.). Support local!

How long are the tours and how fast do we have to paddle/walk?

The tours range from 2-3 hours and the exact length can be found on the registration. The pace will be set by the tour leader based on participants experience level but in general it’s a leisurely pace because the tours are meant to be a learning opportunity more than a workout.

The meeting location is not a street address. Can you give me the street address for my GPS?

Kayak Launch sites often do not have street addresses or a nearby street address, but we will provide an address when we can. We always provide either an address, directions, and/or a google maps link. If you have a smart phone, just open the confirmation email on your phone. Then, click the Google Maps link and navigate.

Do I need to fill out a waiver before the tour?

No, we will have a sign-in sheet and waivers on site to fill out.

Can I bring a canoe on a Kayak Tour?

No. BNW staff are certified kayak instructors and tour guides. Currently our staff do not have the skills to lead canoe tours.