Canoeing is a great way to spend quality time while engaging in an activity that doesn’t involve passively sitting in front of some sort of electronic device or standing over your kids while they do chores. But with all good parenting decisions, there are some secret objectives. Canoeing is one way to:
- Create a “time apart” with your kids
- Benefit from time spent communing with Nature without all the discomfort of camping or walking
- Change the pace (and place) of your normal family interactions
- See each other in a different way
- Time together but without it being so burdensome that one or another (or all of you) get mad and frustrated
- Surprise (something memorable will almost certainly happen)
Total Time Commitment
Canoeing is probably a day trip for most. It all depends on how far you are from a body of water where canoe rentals are possible.
Getting the Canoe
Canoe rental companies provide the canoe, paddles and life jackets. Plan on scheduling at least a 3 hour trip. This is long enough to see some of the lake or river while also having time to stop at sand bars, the shore or to take a quick dip in the water. If you take your time and don’t overdo it (this isn’t a canoe race) even people in poor shape should be able to enjoy it without injury.
You can take as little or as much as you want on your trip. Here are some things to consider including for each person.
- Daypack (school backpacks)
- Food (put all food in water tight, self-sealing plastic bags) like trail mix, fresh fruit, cheese (6 oz) meat (4-5 oz.), vegetables (for those health nuts among you) and desert (100 calorie cakes, packaged pastries, etc.)
- Plastic trash bag (Leave no trace. Take out all trash you bring with you.)
- Water (about a quart, you’re not far from civilization) No glass containers on the water.
- Leave alcoholic drinks at home
- Hiker first aid kit if you have one OR a home-made first aid kit with bandaids, triple antibiotic ointment (or, my father’s favorite-Campho Phenique. His philosophy was that if it didn’t sting, it wasn’t working. That should tell you something about some of what I had to deal with growing up.), athletic wrap (in case of a sprain), pain medication, bug spray, sunscreen and any necessary prescription meds
- Clothing that includes comfortable shorts and loose fitting shirt, swimwear (under your clothes or as canoeing clothes), a change of clothes for the ride home, towel and water proof shoes (tennis shoes work fine as long as you don’t mind them getting wet and dirty. Sandals are discouraged because they can slip and slide all over your foot and you can lose them in the water.)
- Camera, preferably waterproof. You’ve got to get pictures, especially a family photo. Canoe rental places usually have instant water proof cameras for sale.)
Here are a few additional suggestions.
- NO ELECTRONICS. No one takes calls on the drive there, during the canoe trip, or on the way home. NO ONE! Remember, time apart.
- Leave jewelry, watches, rings, wallets, necklaces, etc. at home. You won’t need them on the river. Don’t risk something happening to them if you leave them in the car while on the river.
- Spend as little money as possible. Make due with what’s at hand in the house. It’s the experience that matters.
- Make reservations ahead of time. This will guarantee you a spot.
- Check the water level of the river with the canoe rental company. Nothing ruins a good lazy river run like having to drag the canoe half way down the river bed.
- Start early. It allows you to have a fulfilling experience and still get back home in time to have the afternoon and evening to recover.
- If you plan on fishing, check to see if a license is required. The fines can often be stiff if you fish without one.
- Take your time. Float. Don’t rush. Remember, time apart.
- Go swimming. That means YOU. Wear a bathing suit. It’s fun and funny.
- Push your boundaries. Release your inner child. Surprise your kids. Let them encourage YOU. Acknowledge your fear. Loosen up for goodness sake.
- Don’t overdo the food. Bring enough food to boost your energy but not enough to stuff your gut.
- Use minimal discipline (only when REAL safety is at issue). Save corrective parenting for your every day life. If they paddle ahead, see what happens. Call out to make sure they’re OK rather than to reel them in.
- Put the kids in a separate canoe. Maybe you can act like they aren’t with you while still having a family togetherness experience.
- Encourage and compliment. Make positive observations about your kid based on what is happening in the moment on the river. Spontaneously express affection.
- Get mementos: rocks, shells, abandoned household appliances. The canoe rental office will have t-shirts and other potential mementos. Get something to remember the trip.
Canoeing can be a nice way to celebrate the waning days of the summer. It will be a little break during the beginning weeks of school where you can have some casual conversations about what the school year promises. Happy Paddling!