“I believe I’ll go canoeing” – Henry David Thoreau

canoeing in the boundary waters
A Boundary Waters canoe trip is something every canoe lover should do at least once!

I know I’m biased when I say canoeing is a wonderful activity.

Here in Minnesota, recreational boating is second only to walking as the favorite outdoor activity. And a full 20% of the registered boats in the state is a canoe or kayak. (Minnesota Canoe and Kayak Study, ©2005 Minnesota DNR)

Every year, according to the Outdoor Industry’s annual Outdoor Participation Report, almost 10 million Americans go canoeing at least once. Its history in North America goes back centuries.

If you haven’t canoed, here’s what you’re missing:

a beautiful still morning
There’s nothing like an early morning paddle when the lake is like glass

Early morning. The water like glass. The only sounds are the dip of the paddle in the water and a few birds.

There’s nothing like it.

Solo paddles like this are great, but canoeing is a great social activity, too. Most canoes are “tandem” or for two people. If you’re on a day trip, you can easily fit one or two on the floor in the middle, too.

When our kids were little our family of five would go canoeing altogether in our 17-foot canoe.

Getting Started Canoeing

Practically anyone can get in a canoe for an hour or two on a calm lake or river and have a great time. But if you want to canoe more seriously, I recommend either taking some skills lessons or grab a canoeing friend and ask them to teach you.

Steering a canoe is an art—especially in wind, on big lakes or in current. You’ll enjoy it much more and stay safer if you have a few of the basic strokes mastered.

And please wear a life jacket (personal flotation device or PFD)! It’s such a basic and easy safety measure.

Where to Go Canoeing

Portaging a canoe BWCA style
Portaging, Boundary Waters style (that’s me!)

The world’s best canoeing location (again, biased)? The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness/Quetico Provincial Park. At least it’s the biggest. About 2 million acres between the two wilderness areas of northeastern Minnesota and southwestern Ontario. Two million acres of lakes, rivers, forest, beauty and wildlife.

If you love canoeing, the Boundary Waters should be on your bucket list for sure.

Here are some websites to start with:

  • The BWCA page on the United States Forest Service site.
  • www.canoecountry.com and www.bwca.com — two similar private sites with a wealth of info about trips, routes, area lodging, yada yada.
  • A little self-promotion here: I’ve been writing for canoe paddle manufacturer, Bending Branches, since 2016. Their blog has a WEALTH of information about canoeing—and they make amazing paddles, too—check them out! (Go under Learn and Blog for articles, and Paddles to see their canoe paddle line-up.)
  • The Northern Forest Canoe Trail is a 740-mile water trail in America’s northeast, from New York to Maine.
  • The National Park Service has designated a National Water Trail System. Explore ths NPS info to find one near you.
  • Your state probably has a state water trail system. Look it up! Minnesotans, it’s on the Minnesota DNR website.

Of course there are lots of other places to canoe too. Most lakes and many rivers offer great canoeing.

canoeing in mist
Early morning paddle in the mist

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