Canoe Country Wilderness Canoeing
by © Lee Hegstrand


Paddling Precautions and Tips

If there is a threat of lightning avoid the middle of lakes, move directly to the shoreline, within 30 feet, the so-called “shadow of protection” area afforded by shore trees, and land as soon as a suitable landing site is found. Avoid standing near large trees that might attract lightning. On very large lakes hug the shoreline relatively more than with smaller lakes so you may more quickly seek safety in the event of a sudden storm. Do not attempt to run a rapids if there is a portage indicated on the map (there is a reason for that portage). Be careful when approaching waterfalls, land well before a waterfall since the river current accelerates rapidly as you approach the lip of falls. Always land well below a falls to avoid any recirculating hydraulics that could pull you into the waterfall. Remember to relax and roll with the canoe's motion, especially on a windy lake. A stiff posture will make the canoe more tipsy or lively.

On very windy lakes, it is best that the stern paddler paddle on the leeward side of the boat when heading into winds or the windward side when following the wind to reduce the need to rudder or make correction strokes. It is a little safer to paddle upwind than downwind. At times the wind may overtake the canoe and additional help in steering the craft from the bow person is necessary. It is prudent in high wind to have the bow and stern paddlers move toward the center of the craft and kneel to help the rise and fall of the bow and stern and to lower the occupants' center of gravity. One trick on windy days is to "hop" between peninsulas and islands to take advantage of their sheltered shores even if this route is not the shortest. In these conditions it is frequently the fastest or only way to make forward progress.

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