Canoe Help for Beginner

I am new to the forums (having been lurking for a whil but this is my first post). I am planning on taking an overnight trip on a river with class I, II, and a handful of III’s. Ideally I would like a tandem canoeless than 16’. However, other than that I don’t know. Is there such a thing as a seated whitewater canoe? We will be canoeing for a total of 20 - 30 hours and kneeling all that way would be painful? I would like to get a used canoe so I will be somewhat limited in my search. However, I could consider buying new. Are there any models you recommend or advce to offer? Thanks is advance.

More information needed, please

– Last Updated: Apr-06-10 8:12 PM EST –

hmmn.. where to start...

Perhaps knowing what river and what section you are running would be helpful to know? what is your skill level and previous experience canoing? Your question states for a beginner - depending upon what river you are talking about you may want to get some practice/instruction first, especially since you are mentioning class III's and apparently carrying gear also. Will you and your partner be the only ones? Or will there also be other paddlers going along?

I have an older mohawk with an older perception saddle (which I love, i can't stand the newer foam pedestals). I find it quite comfortable nowadays (it took a while to get used to it though) - I can alternate from being "locked in" for rapids to a higher seat for flatwater paddling. Some white water canoes (especially for tripping) do not have pedestals or saddles but instead the traditional seat. Thigh straps and what-not can be used with these, although most do kneel for rapids to lower center of gravity. So too answer your question, yes, white water canoes can have seats.

You will need proper flotation (flotation bags and cages to hold them) and will have to properly secure your gear in case of an upset. It is not fun to have to find and retrieve a boatload of gear that has been strewn about across the river from dumping in rapids.

On the safety side of things, I hope you and your partner are strong swimmers (especially if going alone). Have you ever swam in white water before? If not, it is quite different from flatwater swimming. There are many things to look out for - strainers, undercuts, hydraulics, foot-entrapment potential, etc. Do you plan on carrying gear in case of a boat pin? First aid kit? First aid training? This thread, (copy and paste into your browser), about 2/3 of the way down, in particular the posts by, detail many of the potential dangers you could run into.

Also, it seems that most beginners aren't that comfortable in white water canoes at first. White water canoes are designed for maneuverability in current, not for stability. Beginners can find them "wobbly" or "easily tipped". As a person progresses in skills this goes away. A true white water canoe can be a completely different animal than a recreational canoe.

Just keep in mind that if you truly are a beginner, this trip may be one you want to put off for now - at least until you have some experience. White water can be very fun, but very dangerous also. Without knowing what section of river you are planning on running no one will be able to give you more specific information. And, in my mind, carrying gear while running class iii's is best not done by beginners, especially if by themselves with only 1 boat. It is best to work up to this point by getting some instruction and training first!

I am sure many more people with more experience than myself will chime in shortly - if you answer the questions i asked you they will be better able to help answer your questions.

20-30 hours of paddling in 2 days? that's a lot of time to spend in a canoe if you're not used to it. Are you sure that you and your partner are up to that? Thats like 10-15 hours both days. Nowadays I love doing stuff like that, but when I was just beginning, no way could I have done that. That would have been torture and not very enjoyable.

more information
Thanks for they reply.

To start off I am planning on cane the Chattahoccee River from Helen, GA to Lake Lanier. I believe the section is about 20 - 30 miles depending on where you put in and where you get out. Doing a little bit of research, it appears this stretch of river has flatwater, and some class I,II, and the occasional III.

There will at least 6 - 8 and probably 10 - 12. One of the persons is a very experienced kayaker (sp?) with a degree in outdoor education. Another person is a physical trainer with first aid skill.

Depending on how long we plan to spend we might stretch it into 2 nights or we might do less and just do 1 night.

I am a beginner (as with several other people). I have a little concerned about the rapids. However, a couple of people going have paddled this section before. I am also not opposed to walking certain section as much as the terrain allows.

Recently I have been canoeing in a river closer to home for practice. This river has minor rapids (not even sure how to determine that). I plan on going more often and even in a lake for flatwater practice. Currently, the trip is planned for July/August.

That sounds like fun. For a canoe,have a look at the Old Town Penobscot, or the Appalacian. Bell Yellowstone tandem would be a good choice too. Many great choices in boats for what you describe.

The Appalachian is a superb boat

– Last Updated: Apr-06-10 9:33 PM EST –

but more to the point..what are your "limited" choices?

It took me a couple of years to work from beginner to running Class 3 and wonder if your buds have the rescue skills to keep you safe and happy. Its no big deal to tip over if you are secure in your paddling partners.

The Penobscot is not so much suited to that sort of work. It does moving water (class 1: the Penobscot River is slow moving with lots of volume but ledgy necessitating some that Old Town history...their boat names often correspond to the territory they are best suited for)

for mjflores..your Pack is for just that..throw it on your back and hike to that next Maine pond over blowdown and fish your secret hole. Still does not make it a great tripper..LOL but a great hiker.

sounds like a fun trip…

– Last Updated: Apr-06-10 9:48 PM EST –

Sooner or later someone who knows that river will post a reply.... wow! it sounds as if many water ways are quite polluted down that way.. I'm up in NY so have no knowledge of that river.

Some food for thought on purchasing a canoe though.. White water canoes have lots of rocker, are great on water with current, but aren't the greatest for flatwater. Flatwater canoes obviously excel on flatwater, but usually aren't good for white water. With that said, most canoes are perfectly capable of running class I and II's, and depending upon the paddler(s) and outfitting, class III's shouldn't be much of a problem - provided you just want to run them and not play around in them. I just did a quick search on georgia rivers, and it doesn't seem like there is much there that would actually require a dedicated white water canoe. Depending upon your future paddling plans, you may want to get a more general purpose canoe rather than spending money on a dedicated white water canoe. Paddling flatwater with a whitewater canoe can be done, but it may not be the most enjoyable. Whitewater canoes are designed to turn quickly and nimbly, but do not track (go straight) very well or hold speed. A general purpose canoe should track straighter, go faster (on flatwater), and still have enough turning ability to just run class III's once the paddlers have experience. I'm not sure what your future paddling plans are, but this may be something to consider... Most of us end up with multiple canoes for different kinds of water - but this happens over time. I have a dedicated white water canoe, and another canoe for river running (which could be outfitted and turned into a dedicated white water canoe), and I have the "need" for at least two more - one for lakes and big open water, and i would like a small tandem (all mine are solo) for the extra cargo capacity and for poling and the ability to try to get non paddling friends into this way of life, err... sport.... In the meantime, i use my swift raven for general river running and on lakes (it's slow, but works on big open water) and excels at just paddling on moving water - but, as someone else once described their raven, it's like a slow 4x4 truck - it can carry a ton, will go through anything, but will be slow (especially on open lakes)...

After doing some research on that section, I think you will be fine with the class II's and III's .. Class II's aren't really anything much, and american whitewater only states potential class III's at higher water. With a group of boaters this should be a fun trip for you. Make sure that at least a few of the more experienced boaters have good rescue skills. Don't worry about swimming, we all end up doing it! Don't hesitate to portage (walk) around anything you are really uncomfortable doing - that's a skill in itself, recognizing that which should be avoided due to risk assessment, which will come naturally over time. There is no shame in portaging around something that you are not sure you are capable of paddling.

Have fun!

"Class II’s aren’t really anything much, and american whitewater only states potential class III’s at higher water."

I always get a kick out of statements like that.

The river rating (rapids) system is about the most imprecise rating system I can think of. There have probably been thousands of canoes and kayaks that have been damaged/destroyed in “only class II” rapids,

and probably hundreds of drownings as well, and likely tens of thousands of swims, including mine.

there are a lot of regional differences in rivers - a CII here can be totally different than CII there - some rapids get that rating because of a single feature - other rapids may be CII for miles; some get that rating for a few big waves - no big deal, even if you flip, you just get washed thru - other CIIs are full of rocks and lots of technical manouvering to avoid pinning. CII for a whitewater kayaker is barely noticeable - for an average tandem canoe, it can be more than you can handle

the difference between CII and CIII can be huge, especially if it is high water that makes that difference

so I wouldn’t underestimate any CII/potentiall CIII rapid - if possible, stop upstream and walk the bank to scout for the best line thru. and kneel, to lower your center of gravity. If the rapid looks to be too much for you to handle, you may be able to portage around it, or line the boat down along shore, or have more experienced paddlers take your boat, and you meet them below. The advice about floatation bags is very important - the bags displace a large volume of water, allowing the canoe to float mugh higher than if full of water, which helps a great deal to avoid pinning the canoe - to some extent, your packed gear in drybags offers some floataion.

but to get back to the original question, I’d add many “prospector” models, and the “legend” has a great reputation from the old Dagger days - see below

The main reason I posted the link is for an example - an example of how to go about searching your area for appropriate canoes, assuming you are going to buy new.

Do about the same when searching craigslist or p-net for used canoes.

First do a bit of research in the yellow pages to see what canoe dealers are around your area, and what brands they carry. Then research on the websites for those brands, and look for river trippers, or however the manufacturer describes thier canoes that they categorize as suitable for river travel. Then read the reviews here on P-net to see what people have to say about those boats. Typically, for a canoe to be able to handle CII, you will be looking for a royalex boat with a godd 2" of rocker. that eliminates most boats in the “recreational/family/fishing” categories in my opinion

one other “source” for used baots that may already be rigged for whitewater are any local canoe clubs - they often have a “for sale” section that you can access

I’ve seen a lot of novice paddlers swim in class II rapids – myself included. Just leaving an eddy can put you in the water. All you have to do is be a bit slow to lean the correct way…

Let’s review your finding.
“I just did a quick search on georgia rivers, and it doesn’t seem like there is much there that would actually require a dedicated white water canoe.” If you believe this, then I guess you wouldn’t require a dedicated whitewater canoe for anything.

It is true that nearly all difficult Georgia rivers were first run in Grummans or OCAs. But I don’t think you would be comfortable running the Chattooga, the Amicalola, the upper Conasauga, the Chattahoochee above Helen, or even the standard upper Chattahoochee run in a no rocker or low rocker general purpose canoe. Even a Tripper run solo is rather ponderous in technical water.

Yes, I can run the classic "upper Hooch"
section in my dreams. Many so-called class 2 rapids in this section are trashy and technical, and when people insist on calling them only class 2, it is a case of “familiarity breeds contempt.” In hundreds of runs on the unscoutable entrance to Buck Shoals, I can recall only a few that were really clean. Many newbie paddlers blunder through— I did back in '74— but few run the rapids accurately, cleanly, and with a good margin of error. And those are more experienced people in kayaks, c-1s, or open canoes designed for whitewater.

Why are there so many absolute beginners that want to go right out and run class III in canoes? I just don’t get it. Maybe I’m completely incompetent, but after 3 years of frequent paddling, and even owning a boat that is considered entirely capable of cl3, I still ain’t ready for it.

Is my idea of cl3 overblown, or what?


– Last Updated: Apr-07-10 10:36 PM EST –

From the American Whitewater website:

Class III: Intermediate

Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. Scouting is advisable for inexperienced parties. Injuries while swimming are rare; self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims.

Doesn't sound like beginner conditions to me....

It's one thing if there's a short class III drop with a big pool downstream to collect the pieces, and trained folks to do the collecting A continuous stretch of class III is a whole different animal.

A swamped canoe without bags is amazingly heavy.

Looks even worse when you distill it out to it’s essentials…

…moderate, irregular waves…difficult to avoid…swamp an open canoe…Complex maneuvers…fast current…tight passages…ledges…large waves…strainers…Strong eddies…powerful current …Scouting is advisable…group assistance may be required…

It’s all just water…some moves faster. You have to gain experience some how…might as well just do it!

typo… problem with brain to keyboard…

– Last Updated: Apr-08-10 12:27 AM EST –

i meant to type on the op's original stated section... i was basing my information of some outfitters website that came up when i googled it.. they made it sound like it was very suitable for beginners..... i figured since they run trips on it they should know....

and yes, i do realize their are many white water rivers down that away... but thats what happens when typing a response while in a rush.....

i also stated to the original poster that "I am sure many more people with more experience than myself will chime in shortly " - i also mentioned that " I'm up in NY so have no knowledge of that river"...

i meant no disrespect to anyone down south....

other than mistyping, i still think the majority of my other points are valid... but maybe i'm wrong....

this is why i never try to answer anyone's posts... my fingers type faster than my brain moves, and what i'm trying to say doesn't always come out the way i intended it....

i give up... i'll go back to just reading and won't reply anymore....


Class II: Novice

Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels that are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium sized waves are easily avoided by trained paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured, and group assistance, while helpful, is seldom needed. Rapids that are at the upper end of this difficulty range are designated Class II+.

Seems to me a group of paddlers (some experienced, some not) should be able to handle this - I didn't want to scare the op because of my other comments.... i wasn't trying to downplay the dangers of class III's either, but for the section of helen to lake lanier, the outfitters site i was looking at made it sound like it was more or less suitable for beginners, and only a problem at higher levels...

sheesh... i was only trying to be helpful...

It ain’t just the water that gets ya.

– Last Updated: Apr-08-10 12:25 AM EST –

It's the boat-wrapping boulders, the hydraulics under ledges, the unseen foot-holds, the strainers. Especially the strainers. The nearest cl3 to me (which I've cheated but haven't actually run) is immediately followed with nasty strainers, which is part of why it's cl3. Just about anybody can run it in an inflatable. Most anybody in a decent kayak. I could probably do it in a solo river canoe with moderate rocker. But a tandem, with a partner no better than me....not there yet. And that's just a short section of 3.

Even on "easy" cl2 stuff, the "just do it" people get in trouble all the time. I'm pretty comfortable there and I suppose I will be in cl3 soon enough. The OP (and others) are free to jump right in, but I have long-term plans for me, my partner, and my boat.

one of the things not often mentioned …

– Last Updated: Apr-08-10 12:51 AM EST –

..... here , but is always on my mind ... is stuff like steel rods , spear type tree branches , and all sorts of nasties (junk) that have gotten wedged in the bottom rock and awaiting someone to get stabbed into on the swim .

I see a fair amount of this stuff (just below the surface) on non-WW sections of rivers , and often wonder that it's probably there in WW too , although I don't recall hearing of anyone getting ripped or speared by it ??

I know a stuck foot can quickly become all she wrote , PFD or not .

Totally irresponsible statement
particularly where beginners are being advised. Class III can result in loss of life for a beginner. Moving water has MANY inherent dangers and such a statement has no place in a venue where people new to the sport ask for help.

'it’s all just water"

– Last Updated: Apr-08-10 8:49 AM EST –

That's one of the problems with the rating system -- it doesn't tell you what features gave that section the rating. If the feature is "all just water" -- honkin' big waves and big holes -- it may be a lot safer than a section with less water and more crunchy bits. You may still have a good chance of swimming but much less risk of pinning or entrapment.

The class III that's familiar to you may be very different than class III somewhere else.

Good comment. There is an ongoing
problem with the rapid rating system, and it’s right in the class 2 versus class 3 distinction where it affects a large number of paddlers.

Again taking the Upper Chattahoochee as an example, many of the routes through rapids are NOT large, clear, easily recognized, and at low to moderate spring and summer levels, there are lots of rocks that are very hard to miss cleanly. There are few opportunities for scouting. If I soloed down this section now, with my experience but without any memory of the routes, I would have significant difficulty. Reading those routes the first time would actually be a little harder than when I first read the routes down the middle Tellico. That’s because the upper Chattahoochee is actually more of an upper Piedmont river than a mountain river. It spreads itself wide over multiple ledges.

I guess the leader of the OP’s planned trip is planning to lead people down in the monkey see, monkey do approach. This usually works as long as there are people at the bottom of each rapid who can pick up the pieces. Maybe the leader knows how to deal with the posted portage around the mill dam earlier in the run. I don’t.

But there is a better overnight run in north Georgia, class 1-2 the first day on the Hudson, and then class 1-2++ on the Broad the second day.