View Full Version : Canoeing, how many miles a day?

02-12-2004, 09:23 AM
As I get closer and closer to finishing my canoe I'm starting to think about day trips, just me and my canoe and maybe some friends if they want.

Now being as I'm still learning how to canoe, I've no idea how far one can expect to go in a days travel without rushing or forcing the issue.

Around here there are creeks that wind in and out and through different areas of town and it would be interesting to put in at one end and take the senic route through town.


02-12-2004, 09:44 AM
50 miles.

with a headwind ... -0.5 miles.

Joe Dupere
02-12-2004, 10:04 AM
Hey Chad, it doesn't look like my emails are getting through. Check your private messages. I don't know why I didn't think to try that first


02-12-2004, 10:16 AM
Well thats kind of like asking how far can you drive in a day. City traffic or across Montana? 4 hour day or 10?

Assuming no current and no portaging, with no kids and lazy paddling, 2-3 miles an hour is about what I suppose we do. But there are so many variables......

Ken Hutchins
02-12-2004, 10:23 AM
Chad, just remember to check the charts / maps. One day we went canoeing/tubing on the Connecticut river in upper NH, me, SWMBO, our 3 young'un and a friend. 1 canoe 4 tubes. smile.gif All set for a day on the river and planned to go to the county fair in the evening. We parked 1 truck about a mile from the fairgrounds and went upriver 3 miles on the road to an access point and got on the water about 11:00 AM. Now I never looked at a map redface.gif heck 3 miles on the road, probably 5 on the water, right? ;) WRONG :eek: Well we started drifting, fishing, some paddleing, really enjoying ourselves. About 4:00 I started getting concerned about the time as I kept watching a mountain top getting further away. :mad: The mountain is just behind where the truck was parked. Well we started towing the kids on the tubes, finally the river turned back towards the mountain, aaah good, as daylight faded. :( About a mile further the dammed river turned again :eek: for an even bigger loop away from the mountain. Now I tell ya it was dark on that river, cloudy, no moon. A couple of times we started hearing some noises just ahead, then all hell breaks loose, we disturbed a big flock of Geese, we were right amongst them when they took off, so dark we couldn't see them. :eek: Finally at 10:00 PM we got to where the truck was parked. By now all were cold and not too happy, funny no one was interested in going to the fair. We went back to the other truck and drove back to our camp. Of course by then the camp was cold, had to restart the wood stove, SWMBO got supper ready for a midnight meal.

Bruce Hooke
02-12-2004, 10:39 AM
As noted, a lot depends on the conditions. Some import factors that increase the distance you can cover in a day:

- A good tailwind (rare :D )
- A good current helping you along. Note that contrary to what you might think larger rivers tend to move faster than small streams. The broad Missouri, despite it's generally placid appearance moves along at quite a good clip (and then stop and consider that Lewis & Clark & Co. paddled upstream against it!).
- Good paddling skills -- as you get better you will be able to cover more distance with less work.
- Two strong paddlers.

Some import factors that decrease the distance you can cover:

- A headwind, or worse yet waves and a headwind. Much of this can pretty near stop you in your tracks or at least make things pretty unpleasant.
- A current against you will pretty much stop you in your tracks unless the water is shallow and you can pole, and even then it will be slow going.
- Obstacles that must be climbed over or portaged around. A winding stream with lots of downed trees and beaver dams can take an awful long time (but be a lot of fun in the process if you like that sort of thing).
- Passengers who are not much help with paddling but add weight or add lots of stops to the trip (especially common with children :D ).

For a comfortable full day river trip I usually figure on around 10 miles or less. For a partial day trip I usually think in terms of 6 miles or less. Start with some easier trips and you will pretty quickly get a sense of what is reasonable. Realize that small rivers and streams that are not canoed regularly will frequently have unexpected obstacles like downed trees. If there are guidebooks that cover the streams you are interested that is your first source of information and also a good indication that the stream is a decent paddle. If you do not have access to a guidebook proceed with caution, especially on urban rivers where dams and sluiceways can create deadly traps. Even in rural areas on streams that are not commonly paddled you can find yourself in a bind if you come around a corner and find that a farmer has run his fence across the stream making it hard to get around the fence and hard to reverse your course and go back upstream against the current.

If you are really new to canoeing start on lakes, ponds or VERY quite rivers while you get comfortable with stearing the canoe.

02-12-2004, 10:51 AM
Wel'sir, Chad, Ah'm glad yo' ast thet question! Jest sit yo'sef' down right hereh an' Ah'll tell yo' 'bout thu summer we took our Adventure Scouts on thu headwaters of ever' one of thu Scenic Waterways in Missouri...

(Hey! Com'on back! Ah wuz tellin' yo' a story...!)

[What the other guys said. There are a lot of factors involved in distance. Stay safe, have fun!]

Ed Harrow
02-12-2004, 10:57 AM
Chad, what everyone else said. They've covered it pretty well. I've spent the best part of two days windbound on a big lake. Finally, about dusk on the second day we made a break for it.

Also, if you are camping, don't forget to allow time for setting up and taking down. It goes without saying that you're familiar with all the stuff you're taking. With time you'll become more efficient in what you carry, how you pack it, and setup/take down.

For certain read up on paddling techniques, and do a bit of practice before taking off on any big adventures.

02-12-2004, 11:01 AM
What ever you do, if you're in the front of the canoe, bring kneed pads for the outside of your shins. Mine got very bruised in the boundary waters.

p.s. I'm enjoying the Pirate Hunter!

On Vacation
02-12-2004, 11:03 AM
Try actually measuring five miles in your car, on a straight road. This will give you some real eye openers to distance. Oh course, don't ask Wayne Williams on this matter. :D

02-12-2004, 11:07 AM
<font size=10>AH HATES CANOES!</font>

<font size=1>tee hee, I can do it</font> :D

[ 02-12-2004, 12:19 PM: Message edited by: Memphis Mike ]

02-12-2004, 11:19 AM
Yeah mike, canoes would feel kinda left out if you didn't hate them.

02-12-2004, 12:10 PM
The trip I was thinking about is about 16 miles (following the course of the creek). The creek goes from wide to narrow back to wide and runs through residental neigborhoods and stretchs of wooded areas. I know not the condition of the creek in the areas I can't see.

If I do this it will probably be solo, cause that is my personal time, so it will be a single paddler with hardly any experiance and carring no extra gear aside from a cell phone and lunch. I will have my wife drop me off and pick me up when I give her a call.

With that said 16 miles may be too much for my first trip, so maybe I might drop in at a little less than half-way.

Mike, I've thought about contacting Wayne and seeing if he wants to paddle with me, but I'm afraid he is so much out of my league and I couldn't keep up.


John Bell
02-12-2004, 12:18 PM
What's the name of your creek Chad?

16 miles on a windy creek around here is a long day. Especially if it's one that has any deadfalls (tree across the creek) at all. Deadfalls are not only very difficult to get around, with the possible exception of low head dams, the most dangerous hazard a moving water canoeist can face.

02-12-2004, 12:26 PM
John I'm looking at North Chickamauga creek. I was wanting to put in at Thrasher Pike and follow it all the way to the river.


Bruce Hooke
02-12-2004, 12:53 PM
Assuming no (or very limited obstructions) such as deadfalls I think I could solo paddle 16 miles in one day if I got a nice early start (say 7 AM) and planned to be out all day. However, I would be pretty exhausted at the end of it. I would definitely break this trip into two sections. Of course, since you have a cell phone and since your wife will be picking you up, if there are multiple possible take outs you can start at the top and just paddle as far as you want to and then have your wife pick you up at the next available take out.

02-12-2004, 12:59 PM
If it would take Bruce all day to 16 miles it would probably take me at least 2. But Bruce you are right about taking the cell phone and calling in when ready.


Bruce Hooke
02-12-2004, 01:01 PM
I just looked at North Chickamauga Creek on http://www.topozone.com and it does look like a big enough creek so that it's unlikely that downed trees would span the river and likely that the current would move right along, so 16 miles might not be completely out of the question with an early start. However, given that you are new to this I would set your sites somewhat lower for your first trips. Before you go on ANY moving water I would get out on some still water and make sure that your paddling is good enough to give you solid, reliable control over where the canoe is going. In a stream you can easily come around a bend and find a tree down in your path and not have a lot of time to avoid getting caught in the tree and pulled under. Such trees are know as "strainers" and can be quite dangerous even on a relatively quiet river.

Alan D. Hyde
02-12-2004, 01:17 PM
Here's a good canoe trip for you:


Miles per day depends upon conditions, skills, canoes, loads, and conditioning of the party...


My parents paddled this route for their honeymoon, in 1948. It's near to (and sometimes referred loosely to as) the Gunflint Trail.




[ 02-12-2004, 02:24 PM: Message edited by: Alan D. Hyde ]

Wayne Williams
02-12-2004, 03:33 PM
Hi Chad.

Ironmule's got it. Put in at the Greenway right below Chickamauga dam. You can paddle upstream for half your allotted time and turn around when your ready. North Chick's got only a very gentle/no current in the lower sections. It twists a lot and there are plenty of deadfalls in the water that will require maneuvering around. Shouldn't be too many all the way across though.

You won't make good time just because you'll be going slow to make all the turns. Pleasure trips aren't for wearing yourself out anyway.

1. Take twice the fresh water that you think you need.

2. Wear a life jacket. Nobody drowns when they think they're going to.

3. Bring a knife (don't think I've ever seen you w/o one).

4. Dress for the water temperature not the air temperature.

Let me know when your going, I might be able to come too. Also, if you join the canoe club there are group flatwater trips once or twice a week.


P.S. call me if your about to drown. I'll come get your body and move it to the Ocoee so your family won't have to face the shame ;)

P.S.S. I paddle about 5 miles an hour on an up and back course (against current half the way). I've done 16 miles in under three hours on a downstream run.

John Bell
02-12-2004, 03:34 PM

North Chick is has a pretty harum-scarum class V+ section on it, so be sure of where you are putting in. Also, access is a huge issue so be sure that where you put in and take out is legal. Streams have been closed for recreational use due to people not using acceptable access points. Our right to paddle through private property is not a given, so discretion is advised.

I'd strongly suggest you find a copy of "A Canoeing and Kayaking Guide to the Streams of Tennessee" Volumes 1 and 2, written by Bob Sehlinger to review what the access points are and what the character of the stream you are planning on paddling is like. It will also give you information like what water levels are suitable. Too low is a misery, not to mention it will grind the bottom off of your boat. Too high can be a real hoot or real dangerous, depending on your skill level and preparedness.

Many smaller streamsin this part of world , even though they are flatwater, tend to have some small shoals in them, and getting through them takes some skill.

And finally, I would strongly encourage you to find a partner. A single boater in swiftwater can get into trouble in innumerable ways. It's alway safer to have company. Your best bet would be to find someone who knows the particular stretch of river you want to paddle to go with you the first time.

On Vacation
02-12-2004, 08:42 PM
Wayne, nice to see around. Hope things are swell with you and the family. Its been a little cool for the paddle I guess. Don't be a stranger.

[ 02-12-2004, 09:43 PM: Message edited by: Oyster ]

Wayne Williams
02-13-2004, 06:48 AM
Originally posted by Oyster:
Wayne, nice to see around. Hope things are swell with you and the family. Its been a little cool for the paddle I guess. Don't be a stranger.Hey Dude.

I get on the water a couple of times a week weather permitting.

Family is all well. And should be increased by one come fall.

How are yours? Out of school yet?