Army Corps Of Engineers Launches App To Help People Stay Safe On Pittsburgh’s Rivers

May 29, 2018

Recreational boaters docked on the Allegheny River near PNC Park.
Credit Maria Scapellato

Summer is unofficially here and that means more traffic on the local waterways.  

With large numbers of recreational boaters and kayakers launching into the three rivers, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District says safety should be a top priority.  

As part of its ongoing effort to educate the public about potential hazards on the rivers, the Corps of Engineers has launched a new app to help people stay safe. USACE Pittsburgh provides users with vital information according to Jeff Hawk, the public affairs officer with the Army Corps.

“People can check river conditions and look at the navigation charts and know the waterways before they use them,” Hawk said.

Kayakers on the Allegheny River near Point State Park
Credit Maria Scapellato

He noted that kayakers are at increasing risk on the rivers, since many can buy a kayak often for less than the cost of a bicycle and launch it into the river without any prior training.

“This is an important group of people. They are probably the most vulnerable people on our waterways, and if we can get to them and share our water safety message with them, then we think we’re getting to everybody,” Hawk added.

He said people should keep an eye out for signage and buoys that alert people to fixed crest dams which are concrete walls in the river  that keep the channel deep enough for navigation. These dams pose a danger to kayakers and boaters because they’re difficult to see from a distance.

The Army Corps of Engineers is also partnering with Venture Outdoors to host events such as paddler safety lock events, where participants are taught how to safely move through the locks on kayaks.

“We’re just trying to beat the drum on a consistent basis to reach that audience and say, look, there are threats out here. There are hazards that can take your life. Please know the rivers before you get on them,” Hawk said.

River enthusiasts can also follow the Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District on social media for the latest updates on what’s happening on Pittsburgh’s rivers. For Hawk, it’s about getting the message out about safety to reach as many people as possible.