The bow of a canoe cutting through the water is peaceful and stress-reducing; canoeing can easily become your new favorite hobby.
When the bow of a canoe cuts through the peaceful water as you dip your paddle and propel yourself forward, bliss ensues. The only noises you hear are those of your paddle, the breeze in the air and the sound of the red-winged blackbird as you gracefully glide through the water while experiencing parts of America that few ever will.
This country is crisscrossed with scenic rivers and streams that humans have used for transportation for centuries. In times past, they have carried hunters, trappers, settlers, and warriors. Today they carry commerce, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts. Some streams have been mapped for the traveler while others are mysteries to be discovered.
All offer great fishing, scenery and fun. Here are some canoeing tips.
Learn Before You Go
Canoeing and kayaking are skills that can be easily learned and built upon. Human-powered watercraft can be fairly inexpensive and will last for years if properly maintained.
When planning to take up canoeing or kayaking, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, seek out a qualified instructor to teach you the basics. These instructors can also provide you with suggestions for equipment and gear that will be needed.
There are a Few Things You Should Always Have
After you have learned the use of your watercraft, you are still not quite ready to hit the water. You need to be sure to take a few things along.
It is highly advisable to use a waterproof container. This can be a soft or hard container, but should be secured to your craft in some way.
Your packing list should include:
1. Personal first aid kit
Kits can be small and should be geared toward small cuts and scrapes unless you are going on a longer trek and need more supplies.
2. Map and Compass
The USGS offers a great selection of maps for every area of the U.S. You can also download topographic maps from numerous websites.
3. Food and water
Quite frankly, this should be self-explanatory, but you should take along snacks even when you don't think you'll need them.
Most areas have fairly decent cell phone reception, so having one on-hand is a good idea just in case. Plus, most are equipped with a camera and can help to document your memories.
5. Personal Floatation Device
Perhaps the most important piece of equipment is a U.S. Coast Guard certified personal floatation device (PFD). Be sure to check state laws for proper usage.
It is important to remember that this is just a short list and is designed for a day trip. Proper clothing and trip planning is also important.
USGS Water Data and Stream Levels are a Great Resource
Be sure to check water levels and currents to ensure conditions are safe for boating. A great resource for checking water levels, temperatures and other important information is the United States Geologic Survey (USGS).
They track stream gauges across the country using gauge houses located on most rivers. You can access real-time information at their website. You can also download their smart phone app: "River Data."
Where Can I Get Started?
Canoes and kayaks can be rented or purchased. Some rental companies only service one stream while others will work with you on planning your trip and may even offer guide services.
Once you have taken care of these items, it is time to choose where to go. There are many possibilities within easy driving distance of most areas in the U.S.
There are hundreds of possibilities for waterways to explore across your state. Look first in your own community and then reach from there. A great way to decide which streams to explore is to start with major rivers and research which creeks flow into them.
Complete different "Watershed Explorations" before moving on. This provides an incredible learning opportunity and gives you ideas where to go for more adventures.
Wherever you go and whatever you do, be sure to look in your local area for exciting experiences and opportunities to get outdoors. Try something new like canoeing and kayaking and help spread the word about outdoor fun.
No matter how you choose to spend your time this season, don't leave the outdoors out. Make it a part of every season.