Setting up camp on a remote beach, watching the sunset behind a massive bluff after a long day of paddling is our idea of home. Add a few good buddies, a campfire and cold beverages, and what more could you ask for? Any day paddling is a good day, but being able to totally immerse yourself on a scenic river for a few days is without a doubt one of the best ways to explore.
On a recent overnight trip down the Current River, we noticed we were the only two canoes on a 25-mile section. While it was nice to have this amazing river all to ourselves, it was difficult not to wonder where everyone was. This has prompted us to put together some helpful information that hopefully will inspire others to undertake longer river trips.
Safety is the most important thing while paddling on a river, and an overnight trip shouldn’t be attempted by beginners. If you have experience paddling a canoe in a river and have a working knowledge of all the rules and regulations, then this list is a perfect introduction to packing up and spending a few days on the river:
1. Bring and study a map: Yes, rivers flow downhill and it’s hard to get lost, but maps can help you explore the river. More importantly, knowing the relative distance between access points and features will help pinpoint your location. Knowing your location will help you stay on track, paddle the necessary miles in each day, and make it to your takeout point on time.
2. Pack the canoe carefully: When loading a canoe for a multi-day paddling trip, try to evenly distribute gear throughout the boat and avoid staking to keep a low center of gravity. If you notice you are not floating level, and/or the canoe isn’t handling well, pull over and make adjustments.
3. Do not fail to secure: This is a big one. Tie everything down in your boat. This will — in the unfortunate event that you flip the canoe — ensure that no crucial gear gets swept downriver. Drying out gear is easier than chasing it down a river with a strong current. Securing everything — including trash — will also help keep the river clean and wild.
4. Know that a heavier boat is slower: Anticipate obstacles. Multiple days’ worth of food, drinks, gear and your paddling partner can make the canoe much heavier and slower. When approaching any obstacles, be aware that the canoe will not respond as quickly as it would if it were empty. Stay alert, communicate and, again, anticipate obstacles.
5. Always use protection — from sun and rain: Dealing with the elements is what makes a river trip an adventure. Even if the weather looks perfect, sunscreen and rain gear should always be packed. All camping supplies, such as a tent, sleeping bag and clothes, should also be packed in waterproof dry-bags.
6. Think through campsites: Start thinking about a campsite early in the day. Not every beach is an ideal place to spend the evening. A campsite must have available high ground in the event water rises suddenly. Also, check and be aware if there is a a road or heavily used ATV trail nearby; this may lead to unwanted visitors. In the colder months, think about setting up camp in a place that gets direct sunlight, and in the summer look for a spot that will keep your tent in the shade.
7. Luxury items? Bring ’em! While packing light will make some parts of the trip easier, a few luxury items can make the experience more enjoyable. Unlike backpacking, where every pound of gear matters, the canoe is perfect for carrying extra pounds. Get wild and bring a chair!
-Thomas & Mark Malkowicz
– Additional Photography Brad Lee Dale Fine Art Photography