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Remember the 3 R’s When Boating on a River

BY Randy Zellers

ON 07-26-2017


July 26, 2017

Randy Zellers

Assistant Chief of Communications

The heat of summer often leads anglers to large rivers. The promise of large catfish and an extended period of fish activity is thanks to current keeping surface water moving and slightly cooler than in backwaters and reservoirs. But traveling on large rivers like the Arkansas can be a daunting task for people who don’t understand the meaning of all those buoys and channel markers. How do you know which side of the buoys to stay on when traveling up or down a river?

Remember the 3Rs of boating: “Red right returning.” It applies in Arkansas and all over the nation.

Whether you are paddling a canoe, chugging along in a john boat, zipping by in a bass boat or cruising on a houseboat, this simple rule will keep you in the right place – in the channel where it’s safe.

Returning means coming upstream from the ocean or the mouth of the stream. Keep the red buoys on your right as you travel upstream. That means the green buoys will be on your left.
If you are going downstream, just reverse this. The red buoys will be on your left, green buoys on your right.

Buoys are found in many sizes and shapes. Only red and green ones mark channels. Others are white and are for information. This may be directions to a facility, for controlled areas like no-wake zones, and to identify underwater dangers like rocks or dams. A buoy with black and white vertical stripes marks an obstruction; don’t travel between it and the shore or bank.

For more details on boating navigation rules in Arkansas, visit and download “The Handbook of Arkansas Boating Laws and Responsibilities.”

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