Canoeing Information

Insider Info

dotMore 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 great outdoors.

dotYou 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.

dotThe 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.

dotCanoes 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 length.

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 racing.

dotA 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 vests.

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.

dotMany 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.

dotCanoeing 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 physical disabilities.

"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.

dotCommon injuries in canoeing include muscle strain, sprained ankles, poison ivy, dehydration, sunburn, heat exhaustion, and allergic reactions to bug bites.

dotMost 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 shops.

Getting Started

dotAll 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
Fredericksburg , VA   22401

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