More than 7,000 years after the First Nations peoples started making canoes,
canoeing is still a great way to see the country. When European explorers
first arrived in North America, they explored the New World in a canoe. Enthusiasts
will say you can, too.
Canoeing is a growing recreational sport enjoyed by people everywhere.
People paddle their canoes in lakes, rivers, and sometimes even the ocean.
Enthusiasts say it's one of the most refreshing ways to spend time in the
You can go canoeing pretty much anywhere you can find a suitable body of
water -- lakes or rivers for the most part. Many people join canoeing clubs
or associations, or have groups of friends who go canoeing together. A lot
of times people make canoeing the focus of their camping trips to the wilderness.
No one keeps tabs on the numbers of people who enjoy canoeing these days,
but it's probably a safe bet to say the numbers are in the hundreds of thousands.
There are hundreds of national, provincial and local canoeing clubs and associations.
Each organization typically has hundreds of members, and the numbers are growing.
The trend in canoes these days is lighter and more high tech. Canoeing
is becoming much more specialized. Twenty years ago, people would buy one
boat that could do almost everything. Today you can buy a boat for almost
any kind of canoeing you want to do.
"It is sad, but most people are not looking for old wooden boats anymore.
They are becoming harder and harder to find these days," says David H. Johnston,
a member of a recreational canoeing association.
There are boats for solo canoeing, extended expeditions, whitewater, and
racing. The paddles and safety equipment you'll find at canoe shops are also
very high tech. You really need to do your homework before you get a boat
to make sure that you get the right one for your needs.
Canoes come in a variety of sizes, but they're all pretty much the same
shape. They can be 10-feet long or they can be 50-feet long, like the canoes
built by some native Americans. While there is no real generic canoe, most
of them are in the 14- to 17-foot range, with 16 feet being a very common
Most canoes you see are for recreational use by two paddlers. Solo canoes
are shorter and lighter. They are usually about 13- to 14-feet long. Longer
lengths are common in canoes where speed is important, such as cruising or
A canoe can cost as little as $200 or as much as several thousand for a
high-tech "kevlar" canoe. Kevlar is the same stuff used to make bullet-proof
The thing you have to remember is that the canoe is just the starting point.
You also need paddles and safety equipment. Depending on what you buy, it
can be quite expensive. However, it is possible for the average person to
get started with a canoe, paddles and life jackets, better known theses days
as PFDs (personal flotation devices) for less than $300.
Many people involved in this recreation say renting first is a good idea.
That way, you get a feel for different boats and you learn about equipment.
Rental outlets are also good places to buy canoes and equipment. A year-old
canoe in good condition could save you hundreds of dollars.
Canoeing can be a physically demanding sport. But it can also be a relaxing
experience, like canoeing on a calm lake up at the cottage. It just depends
on what type of canoeing you want to do.
This hobby does require some lifting -- after all, you have to get the
canoe to the water and put it in. People who take canoe trips often have to
"portage," or carry the canoe from one body of water to another. It's important
to take at least beginner lessons to get the basics.
Paddling is for everyone, including the physically challenged. Many clubs
and associations offer lessons and have special equipment to help people with
"Physically challenged people can get involved in the sport, with some
training. As long as you can hold the paddle, you can canoe," says Celine
Audette, president of a canoe club.
Common injuries in canoeing include muscle strain, sprained ankles, poison
ivy, dehydration, sunburn, heat exhaustion, and allergic reactions to bug
Most people paddle for fun. But people can and do find paid employment
in this recreation. There are several areas in which you can find work. You
could become a certified instructor. As an instructor, you would give canoeing
lessons either on your own or through a club or association.
To do this, you would need to take a number of outdoor recreation courses.
Such courses are often offered at colleges and through continuing education
classes. It's also possible to find work at canoe rental companies or retail
outlets. Some people get the entrepreneurial spirit and open their own canoe
All it takes is a willingness to do it. Look in the phone book for a local
canoe club or association. Then arrange to take a basic course. There are
lessons available for just about any kind of canoeing you may want to do.
Remember, once you get started, the rest is all fun!
One thing about lessons -- make sure the instructor is experienced and
is certified to teach. Most clubs will be able to point you in the right direction.
A good instructor will teach you all the basic strokes and a lot about water
safety. Courses in first aid and CPR are also a good idea.
American Canoe Association
1340 Central Park Blvd., Suite 210
International Canoe Federation
Canoe Camping Top 40
A guide to the best rivers in the U.S.
The Wooden Canoe Heritage Association
For the traditional North American canoe
Dallas Downriver Club
A great collection of riversport links