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What Is An Eddy In A River?

Mark Armstrong
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Quick Answer

Eddies can often be found in a river or stream where an object is causing an interruption to the flow of the current. The current in an eddy is flowing in the opposite direction from the main river flow. This can cause dangerous turbulence at the eddy lines where the two opposite currents meet.

Before you start heading down a river in your kayak, it can be useful to know about some of the obstacles that you might encounter and the conditions you might expect along the way.

You’ve probably heard of an eddy but what are eddies and how can they help you in a river? We’ve put together some information to tell you a little more about them and how you might use them while paddling on a river.

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What Is An Eddy?

An eddy is a section of circular current that tends to flow in the opposite direction from the main river current.

Eddies are usually caused by an obstruction in the river, such as a rock or fallen tree. This interrupts the main flow of the river, causing the eddy, which is usually on the downstream side of the obstruction.

As the water flows around the obstruction, some of the water then flows back on itself behind the obstruction to fill the space before circling back in the direction of the main flow.

The eddy can almost appear as if the water is not moving at all, like a calm pool, with the center of the eddy being calmer than its edges. It is this calmness that can make an eddy appealing as a resting spot if you’re kayaking along a fast moving river, as it can give you a little respite from the rapids.

Eddy Lines And Whirlpools

Eddy lines are basically the edges of the eddy, where the two opposing currents meet. This is often a lot rougher than the eddy itself, as it is the point where the water is moving in two different directions. This is what can cause whirlpools.

The eddy lines are lines of rough water that generally begin at the edge of the obstacle that created the eddy. The lines get wider downstream as the water pressure weakens.

Whirlpools are what sometimes happen when water flowing in one direction meets water flowing in the opposite direction. It is when the water swirls in a downward motion, often causing suction and dragging objects from the surface down underneath the water.

Depending on the strength of the whirlpool, it could have the power to pull you and your kayak under the water.

How To Use And Paddle Eddies Safely

Eddies can be great places to stop while you’re making your way down rapids, as they can give you a chance to pause and catch your breath before you hit the next run.

They can also be ideal for using to map your route downstream, letting you bounce from one eddy to the next as you make your way down river.

But getting in and out of the eddies may not always be easy because of the conflicting currents at the eddy lines. For this, it can be a good idea to identify the eddy lines.

Once you’ve identified the eddy lines, you should set your angle so that your bow is about 45 degrees to the eddy line, facing your direction of travel. This can work both for entering and exiting an eddy.

You may need to adjust the angle of your bow depending on the speed of the river. Smaller angles may work better for faster moving water and larger angles may be needed for slower water.

Another thing to note is that you may need to attack the eddy line with a bit of speed so that you can cross it quickly without being spun around. You may also need to lean to tilt yourself towards the current that you’re heading into. When entering an eddy, for example, you should tilt in the opposite direction from the main river current.

Wrapping It Up

Eddies can make a river trip even more fun and they can be great for giving you a helping hand as you make your way downstream. Knowing how to use them can let you take a well deserved rest from the rapids while scope out your next route.

Remember that the current in an eddy will tend to flow upstream against the main current, even if it appears to be still.

Leave us a comment to let us know your thoughts on paddling eddies and share this to help out your fellow paddlers.

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