Remember the Three Rs When Boating on a River

By Arkansas Game and Fish

First posted on 06-20-2014

How do you know which side of the buoys to stay on when traveling up or down a river?

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

Whether you are paddling a canoe, putting along in a john boat, whizzing 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.

OK, right is starboard and left is port for sailors.

Buoys are found in many sizes and shapes. Just the 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 designation 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, a free publication called “The Handbook of Arkansas Boating Laws and Responsibilities” is available at all Arkansas Game and Fish Commission offices.