People have been traveling by canoe for thousands of years. Just check out
this Pesse dugout canoe that dates back to 8,000 BC.
Today, instead of bark and wood, we're fortunate to have canoes made of fiberglass and aluminum. The "tippy" design hasn't really changed all that much, but with a little practice, canoes are an ideal way to stay in shape or just relax and take in some beautiful scenery.
No matter your skill level, it's important to use good judgment and preventive measures to stay safe. In 2013, 219 people died and 110 were injured while canoeing or kayaking, according to the
American Canoe Association. Often, this is a result of paddling on a river or lake that is too challenging for one's skill level.
Don't Rock the Boat, Baby
canoeing is one of the safest outdoor activities, according to paddling.net, there always is a chance your canoe will tip over. Most drowning occurs when a boat capsizes or someone falls overboard, according to an article in
Field and Stream magazine.
If this happens, don't panic. Stay upstream of the boat to avoid being pinned between the boat and a rock. Angle your way up to shore instead of paddling straight, stay behind the canoe and hold on to it for floatation.
Field and Stream offers more detailed advice on surviving capsize.
Here are some additional tips for experts and beginners, alike:
- Always wear a lifejacket
- Have someone steady the canoe so you can get in without tipping
- Canoe with at least three people, or two crafts
- Join a local canoe club or take lessons to learn about canoe safety
- Never attempt rivers or rapids beyond your ability; progress gradually from one skill level to the next
- Never stand in a canoe away from shore; always sit on the seats
- Do not canoe in inclement weather
- In waterproof bags, bring some extra clothes, sunscreen, a first aid kit, snacks and water, and a map
- Carry a
canoeing whistle, just in case you need help; yelling can't be heard from very far away
- Tie your equipment to the canoe in case it tips over
- Bring a rope to pull a swimmer to safety or tow another boat
It's also important to know the area you plan to canoe. Is the water high and fast or low and slow?
The Lower Mississippi River, for example, is for experienced paddlers, but countless lakes, marshes, rivers and streams throughout the U.S. are perfect for beginners. Just be sure to do your homework. Calm waters can conceal rocky crevices, deep water or other lurking dangers.