Now that the river is cleaner, how do we keep people safe?

When attempting to recreate on the Cuyahoga River, just as on any body of water, it’s imperative to be aware of how the river works and the dangers it potentially presents.  Just a month ago, over Labor Day weekend, a kayaker capsized on the water, causing her death.

One of the most pressing concerns for PHASTAR Corporation founder, Andrew Ferguson, is the need for, but lack of education about the river.

“There is no safe zone in the river,” Ferguson says. A lot of his concern surrounds the many freighters that travel through Cleveland. Freighters can measure anywhere from 700 to 1,200 feet long, and when they have to make sharp turns, that leaves recreationists with little time to safely exit the river.

Screen Shot 2019-10-27 at 4.13.58 PM
Courtesy of

Ferguson’s nonprofit, PHASTAR, is a member of the Cuyahoga River Safety Task Force. PHASTAR created a river ambassador program and refurbished a safety boat to help guide freighters through the dangerous parts of the river.

Ferguson says resources on the river are limited, but his group successfully made eight water rescues this summer. Twenty percent of the kayakers and paddle boarders they saw were not wearing the appropriate life jacket or even one at all. Ferguson says as the task force works to keep the river safe on its end, it’s vital that recreationists work to be safe on their end, too.

What to do to make sure you are safer on the river:

  1. Download an app that tracks large boat traffic, such as Marine Traffic or FindShip.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the river. Be sure to read over brochures offered by the Cuyahoga River Safety Task Force.
  3. Watch the video below, detailing where to go and what to do if a dangerous situation arises.
  4. Be sure to have your life jacket and a whistle or air horn in case of an emergency where you need to call for help.
  5. Tell a friend where you are going and when you expect to return. If you are ever in trouble, the easiest way to find you is if authorities already know where you are.

If you ever suspect you are in immediate danger while on the river and you have your phone accessible, call 9-1-1 or blow the whistle or airhorn you are advised to bring on all trips. If you see a freighter ship, safely paddle or kayak to the side of the river and if possible try to exit the river.

It’s important to share the river!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s