“My paddle’s keen and bright/Flashing with silver…” If you just sang that in your head, you’re aware that canoeing is as much a part of Canadian culture as poutine, hockey, and weather-related stoicism. If you don’t currently own a canoe, then it’s time to get into the “dip, dip and swing.” Here are our top reasons why.
1. It’s eco-friendly
No motor, no gasoline, no exhaust, no greenhouse gases. You can’t get much more eco-friendly than a canoe. Well, OK, you can bike…or walk…but those are hard to do on open water.
2. It’s quiet
There can be a lot of noise in so-called natural spaces: lawnmowers, motor boats, jet skis, radios—the list is pretty endless. When you’re out on the water in a canoe, though, there’s nothing to hear but the slice of your paddle through the water. Not only is that good for your own wellbeing, reducing the amount of noise pollution in natural spaces is good for wildlife too.
3. It’s portable
The problem with motor boats is that when you run out of lake, you’re pretty much done. If you’ve got a canoe, all you do is schlep it over to the next lake and let the adventure continue. Canoes are arguably easier to transport by vehicle, too—no trailer required, just a roof rack and some solid tie-downs.
4. It’s a great way to explore hard-to-reach places
If you want to get away from the crowds, there’s no better way to do it than to take your canoe on a trip where motor boats can’t go. Chances are, you can find great canoe routes wherever you live, but if you’re looking for some off-the-beaten-path adventures, try canoeing in Canada’s far north. There are great routes in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.
5. It’s a Canadian tradition
Canoeing is a significant part of Canada’s history, starting with our indigenous peoples and extending to the French voyageurs who searched for furs and other goods along our waterways. Whether it’s an enormous dugout canoe from the Pacific Northwest or a compact skin kayak from Baffin Island, canoes are woven into the fabric of Canada. Even if your canoe happens to be state-of-the-art kevlar beauty, you’ll still be part of a long national tradition.
6. You can learn some awesome canoeing songs
Sure, there’s “My Paddle’s Keen and Bright” (bonus points if you sing it with “Land of the Silver Birch”—the tunes fit together), but there are other great traditional canoeing songs. Try “V’la l’bon vent,” or “C’est l’aviron” to give your trip a voyageur feel. Really, anything with a good steady beat will work—and a story helps pass the time.
7. It’s a great way to get up close and personal with wildlife
When you’re gliding along in a canoe, it’s a lot easier to get close to that beaver slapping his tail on his dam, or the deer drinking at the side of the water. Just a word of caution, though—don’t get too close, especially to large animals like moose, who might charge if they’re feeling threatened. (Fun fact: moose can swim.)
8. It can be surprisingly family-friendly
Putting little kids or babies in tippy canoes doesn’t seem like the best idea, but many families paddle perfectly happily with their little ones. Hints? An approved PFD specifically for the weight of your child(ren) is a must, try to avoid long portages, at least when kids are toddlers, and tie waterproof toys to your gunwales to keep little ones amused.
9. It’s good exercise
Canoeing at a moderate speed—between 6.5 and 9.5 km/h—burns up to 400 calories per hour. Throw a long portage into that, and you’ll definitely have earned those s’mores. Keep your energy up on long paddles with calorie-dense snacks, like trail mix or energy bars.
What are your reasons for owning a canoe?