Canoe camping is usually a two man or solitary pursuit, although multiple boats make larger parties practical. Canoe camping in many areas is a fading art, but it’s one that can get you away from the crowd surprisingly quick and into that pure wilderness that refreshes the mind and renews the soul. Sound a little too good to be true? It’s actually quite easy to give it a try.
The dip of the paddle is almost silent and the glide of the canoe is noiseless on the lake. The crowd at the campground disappears as you round the first bend. Two minutes later even the memory of others is behind you. Two miles of easy paddling will bring you to one of the remote campsites. A fire pit and a rough hewn bench and table are the only improvements, sometimes just a rock fire pit. The gear in the canoe is limited as well, a small tent, sleeping bags and minimal cooking gear. Hopefully a couple of fishing rods and gear round out the load.
Many states have some established canoe trails which can vary from easy to long distance, multiple night adventure trails. These trails usually have spaced campsites so chances are you will only encounter a few other canoe travelers and will have a remote campsite to yourself. This can vary so check out the trail system online or with the local ranger before heading out.
One of the wonders of canoe travel is the silence. Floating down a stream and even lake shores, it is very common to float up on wildlife unaware. I’ve seen bobcat, deer, beaver and salmon almost close enough to touch before they became aware of our presence. Every trip is different and every trip is noteworthy in a new and exciting way. Some trips in Alaska and Canada can last for weeks or summers!
Canoe travel is an American tradition. Native Americans and early explorers used the waterways as overland travel was slow and difficult. In remote areas, travel by canoe is often the best as there are few developed trails, and brush makes rivers the easiest way to travel. Not that canoe travel is always easy.
On moving waters canoe travel can be challenging indeed. Whitewater kayaks are a more popular tool for rough river travel and are more practical for rivers with wild rapids. Water proof travel bags improve the experience when there is the opportunity for rolling the boat. Nothing ruins the mood like wet bread and sleeping bags. Even calm water canoe travelers should consider the small investment in equipment as canoes are more or less prone to instability.
Whether you head for the local lake or hit the canoe camping trail for two weeks of paddling, canoes let you become part of the scenery. Travel by canoe is fun, exciting and wild. Canoe camping can be the experience of a lifetime or could start a lifetime hobby. Either way you will experience the wilderness in new ways and get up close and personal with the outdoors and wildlife. Happy (canoe) trails.