Canoeing in the Wildnerness


I often write about taking my canoe out fishing or just exploring.  I am hoping to try to do a multiple day float trip by myself this summer, but unfortunately I have been too busy with other things to do any planning for that.  I did some research a while back, so I do have some of the leg work done, but I have to give it some attention if I am going to make that happen this summer.  I would really like to take a three or four day trip, camping out along the way, and doing some fishing too.  I used to take trips like that when I was a kid, they were so much fun!  I thought it would be good to share some general information about canoeing in case any of my readers are interested in getting into canoeing.

The thing I like most about canoeing is that I go places that provide some solitude away from the heavy boat traffic on the main lake that I like to go to.  I live right next to a large reservoir and state park that gets a lot of people on the weekends, but with my canoe there is a large part of that reservoir that does not allow any wakes, meaning that boats have to go really slow, so most people don’t go in those areas.  There are also a lot of back water coves that motorized boats can’t even get to, so I can always find areas to fish by myself, even on the busiest days.

I have a 16 foot Old Town canoe, the camper model, which has a wide beam (the mid-section) to allow for bringing a lot of gear.  I don’t normally bring a lot of gear when I go fishing, but I could if I wanted to.  This canoe was kind of expensive, but it is very durable, it can carry 850 pounds of people and gear, and it is light weight, made of material called Oltonar/Royalex.  I don’t know what that material is, but I can easily carry the canoe from my Jeep to the lake by myself on my shoulders.


Parts of a Canoe

There are a lot of options for canoes out there, and if you are new to canoeing, you should get what is referred to as a “recreational” canoe.  These canoes have a wide beam for stability, a smooth bottom with no keel so they can easily go over sandbars or shallow water obstructions, they are durable, and they are versatile.  With a recreational canoe you can easily take all the gear you need for a day of fishing, or all the gear you need for a few days of camping if you pack efficiently.  I suggest buying a cheaper model or even a used canoe if you are just getting started; you want to make sure canoeing is something you like to do before you invest too much in the canoe and the accessories you might want to add.  A lot of people don’t like canoes because they can be somewhat unstable if you don’t know what you are doing, but I have never tipped over in a canoe, even through white water rivers, and I have been canoeing since I was a small child.

You don’t need a Jeep, truck, or SUV to haul a canoe; there are many roof racks that will fit on almost any car.  Once you have a roof rack, you just need a place to secure the front end of the canoe to your bumper (or something else under the front end of your car) on the left and right side of the vehicle, and at least one anchor point in the back.  In fact, you don’t even need a roof rack; you can get foam pieces that attach to the gunwales of the canoe so it can sit on top of the roof of your car.  The point is, you can carry a canoe with almost any vehicle.

It is important to keep your gear organized in the canoe; you can’t just throw a bunch of stuff in there and expect to have a pleasant outing, especially if you are fishing, camping, or hunting waterfowl.  I use thwart bags and under-seat bags which attach to those places on the canoe to keep my gear organized and easily accessible.  For anything that goes onto the floor of the canoe, I use a boat bag made of mesh to hold everything in one place.  If I am alone, I put heavier items like a cooler or a big tackle box in the front end of the canoe to equalize the weight distribution.  For my car keys, I have an extra key for each of my vehicles that I keep on a floating key chain, and I leave that sitting on the floor of the canoe.  In case I dump the canoe and lose everything in it, at least my car keys will float to the surface and I can get back home.


Camping with a Canoe

For safety, be sure to wear a life jacket, or at least have one easily accessible.  I admit that I don’t wear a life jacket, but I always have one that I can grab in a split second.  There have been many times when I have been out on a big lake when a storm rolled in causing very high waves with strong wind, and I immediately put on my life jacket in those situations.  One time last summer I was about a quarter mile from shore when a huge thunderstorm blew over the mountains and was upon me in an instant.  Waves were crashing over the bow, and the wind blew me backwards faster than I could paddle.  I’m a good swimmer, but I put on my life jacket just in case.  I was actually more concerned about losing the brand new bait caster I just bought and the rest of my gear.  After being blown back to the far shore, I ended up walking the shoreline a mile and a half back to my Jeep, towing the canoe behind me.

There is a lot more to talk about regarding canoeing, and I will write more posts about this in the near future.  Hopefully some of you will gain an interest in canoeing; it is truly one of the best ways to connect with nature in a primitive way.