Advice on doing a solo trip without livery service

“Canoe liveries didn’t do any favors for people interested in fishing, paddling, viewing wildlife, photography, camping, family get togethers or introducing young kids to the river.”

I disagree. Liveries aren’t all bad. I’ve met a lot of nice people when I’ve used liveries.

My own experience with liveries and outfitters is different than yours but then again I have the sense to avoid peak times. If I’m part of the crowd, that’s my fault. Not theirs.

So you’re putting on a popular river. On a saturday or holiday weekend, at let’s say 10:00 am. It is june or july… and you’re surprised you are part of crowd?

As an experienced paddler, I’ve paddled in some large group events and it wasn’t to difficult to find some space by getting out ahead or behind “the throngs of river lice.” Just cruise to the open space and stay there.

I spent four or five days paddling the current river in March at high water. We used an outfitter to run shuttle. We didn’t see anybody else. We did however, have to talk the outfitter into doing the shuttle and had to assure him that we knew what we were doing with the water being up. So when you go makes as big a difference as where you go. On that we can agree. On who’s fault it is when it doesn’t work out, on that we disagree.

Usually I paddle the stream less traveled, but occasionally it makes sense to rent. I’ve had positive rental experiences or used liveries to shuttle on the Current Mo, Niobrara Ne, Whitewater and Sugar Creek In, Little Miami and Mad Oh, Okefenokee (stephen foster) in Ga, Upper Iowa and Yellow in Ia, Yough in Pa, and several of the springs in Florida. I’m glad I went to those places and I had fun and have gone back to many of those places.

I don’t hesitate to pay for a raft seat with a commercial outfitter when I want to see and experience a stretch of river that is above my physicality and skill. You see for me, it’s not about the boat, or how much better I am or worse than others, it’s just about being out there.

Yes, a crowd can change that experience, but it can also be very entertaining. Sometimes the “wildlife” doesn’t have feathers or scales but it still scenic (skimpy swimsuits)… and how else would I have learned that pop sinks and beer floats, or that holding boats together with your appendages in rapids isn’t a good idea; or that it is possible to sit backwards in a canoe with your feet jammed in the stern? That you can propel a boat with both hands on the paddle shaft, have the blade barely submerged, sweeping outward away from the boat? That it is possible to bounce from bank to bank and still finish before dark…all that sounds and looks a lot like my first trip. Been hooked ever since.

Unfortunately, on the Current River the total number of watercraft that the concessionaires are licensed to put on the water cumulatively is such that the river is commonly overrun in the Summer. This was particularly bad last year when not only weekend days but weekdays as well had every livery boat available out on the water.

This leads to a significant degree of over-utilization. Access points are crowded to the point of sometimes being dangerous. Last Summer the NPS campgrounds were pretty severely degraded to a point I had never before seen with trash littered everywhere, dumpsters overflowing with garbage and a rampant racoon population that made it outright impossible to camp on a down river trip without a vehicle or at least rodent-proof food containers.

For me the experience out on the water is also degraded by boaters (and they are livery clients 99% of the time) playing their boom boxes at maximum volume and screaming obscenities back and forth at each other as they float down the river in large “clots”. Apart from destroying any sense of serenity it makes it pretty certain that no wildlife of any type will be seen.

There has to be some kind of limit placed on how many people can be on the water at any given time. The Current River is in danger of being loved to death. You would obviously not have experienced any of this during a March trip.

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Don’t canoe on holidays unless they are during the off season.
Don’t canoe on weekends if the weather is forecast to be warm.
Best temp. to avoid the pack; anything below 50 degrees. 45 degrees or below you can go for miles and not meet anyone.
I learned decades ago to get out in front of the “pack”, or lollygag along in the back of the “pack” if you want to avoid them. Unfortunately the pack is strung out for miles, and the pack is so slow they can turn a 10 mile trip into a 10 hour odyssey. They dictate the speed you can travel.

I don’t go out on the river to get drunk, stoned, loud, obnoxious, and obscene, or see the “wildlife” you spoke about (half naked babes). Neither does my “babe”; my wife of 42 years.

When local law enforcement has to band together & form task forces to get the drunks, dopers, fighters, and othe similiar miscreant off the river (cop run shuttle buses to handle the volume), there is something wrong…I lay the blame at the feet of liveries, and the powers that be, who allow
them to rent more canoe, kayak, and raft traffic than the river can handle.

Too may people are seeking the mardi gras atmosphere. You want that; go to New Orleans!

You didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know decades ago.

We’ll just have to disagree some; I’m too hard headed to change for the sake of liveries, and the pack.


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Although hitchhiking is much less common these days, back when i was single and riding a motorcycle and needed a ride to and from a shop, as long as there was reasonable traffic on the roads I needed , I found that carrying a MC helmet would often get me a ride pretty quickly. It probably helped that I did not look much like a 6’4" 275 lb. Hell’s Angel.

I suspect that in areas where kayaking is fairly common, carrying a PFD and paddle would work well also as long as there is daylight.

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Many many years ago when I was young I saw a guy walking carrying a red 5 gallon gas can and I pulled over and offered him a ride. I said there is a gas station a couple miles up this way I will take you back with some gas. He said I don’t need gas I have my stuff in here and he proceeded to open the can like a suitcase. I laughed and said that’s a good one and gave him a ride as far as I was going.

That really was a different time back then. To be honest I haven’t seen a hitchhiker in at least the last 10-15 years. :slightly_smiling_face: