When one thinks of canoeing, a calm peaceful lake at sunset with loons calling in the background, often comes to mind. While lakes are beautiful things, don’t forget the peacefulness and often WILD excitement of a river.
Rivers are great because most have a flow that make paddling (or not paddling) easier! I do recommend that you take a paddling river course to learn a few basic strokes to avoid obstacles, mainly rocks, and to learn how to “read the rapids”. The Duluth area has a great course offered through Community Ed.
Consult a map for local rivers and ask stores in your area that carry canoes for tips on close river trips. Local book stores and sporting goods stores should carry books on local paddling spots. Local DNR offices are also a great resource.
If you are just getting into river canoeing, the canoe does make a difference. River canoes should be made from a material that can handle bouncing off of rocks and other obstacles. Royalex is a canoe material favored by our staff. Another important part of the river canoe is kneeling pads. The lower you are the more steady the canoe will be. When approaching rapids, get on your knees!
The canoe paddle also makes a big difference. Don’t bring your new bent shaft paddle on the river to get splintered on the rocks! A straight shaft is the way to go (you need this to post and pry, two popular paddle strokes). Above is our river paddle of choice. This paddle, the Bending Branches Expeditional Plus paddle, also had a T-grip, helpful for holding on tight to perform quick stroke movements.
And of course don’t forget your life jacket/PFD! Always have your life jacket on, now matter what the weather or calmness of the river. I made this mistake ONCE when approaching rapids, I was sitting on my PFD and we overturned on a river in a Colorado canyon and I will never make that mistake again (check back for that story).
Always scout the river if you encounter rapids! You could do a stretch of rapids 100 times and that 101st time could have a fallen tree, log, or other obstacle. Yes, I do have another “mistake” story to tell about this, but that can be a whole other blog post.
Other necessities are first aid kit, water, bug spray, hat/sunglasses, sun block, snacks, change of clothes, rain gear, and a map. Make sure all your gear is fastened down in the canoe. Strap it all in! Keep our rivers clean!
Rivers are often great fish habitats, so ask around at local bait shops and bring your fishing pole!
So don’t just limit your canoeing experiences to lakes only, give rivers a try, you may just get hooked! Stay tuned for more on my top 5 rivers in the area…
- Bois Brule River, WI
- Namekagon River, WI
- Kettle River, MN
- St. Louis River, MN
- St. Croix River, WI & MN
*Always remember canoeing can be a dangerous sport, canoe at your own risk.