“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 singularly 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, 9 or 10 million Americans go canoeing at least once.

If you aren’t one of them, 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. It’s best for two people to paddle together, and three or even four can fit in the canoe if you don’t have much gear (and aren’t going to fish—that’s too many hooks flying around!).

Getting Started Canoeing

Tons of outfitters rent canoes and kayaks these days. Many lakeside campgrounds, parks and resorts have a fleet of them for their guests either for rent or as part of your package.

Steering a canoe takes some getting used to, especially if there’s wind. If you’re at a large lake on a windy day, it’s not going to be as enjoyable. Take my word for it. Canoes have a reputation for being tippy — not altogether unfounded.

Like any other activity, it’s nice to start by having a friend teach you, or taking a class at a local park. You may save yourself some frustration and a possible dunking.

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 Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources site.
  • 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 Paddle Resources and Latest Articles for information, and Explore Paddles to see their line-up.)

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

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