How fast can i go in a canoe

I am thinking about a camping trip that will require about 10km of canoeing in relatively small, protected lakes to arrive at the destination.

How fast can 2 people who are inexperienced at canoeing travel? I am wondering how long it will take us to cover this 10km. (no portages)

We would have our camping gear and food and two people in the canoe. Not sure of type of canoe - probably a rented fiberglass or a cheap used fiberglass one.

We are both fit and participate in endurance events like running, cycling & triathlon.


Canoe design
is a major factor. A good tripping canoe (17-18 ft long) should allow you to cruise at 3 kph or more. This is a very unscientific estimate on my part.


is what Gearwoman and I average on trips. 5 just looking at the scenery and 6 when we want to get somewhere. We are a bit faster than most recreational campers, so if you change the mph to kph you should be safe. No more than 2 hours if the water is open.


– Last Updated: May-01-06 4:53 PM EST –

Assuming the following:

No or light winds, no portages as you suggest, deep enough water (so you don't get stuck), decent weather, and decent physical apptitude...

Assuming that you have some sort of reasonable craft and that you can do a basic forward stroke...

I can't imagine moving much slower than 2.5 mph or about 4 km/h. Top end speed, given relatively little experience and a loaded canoe might be in the 4 mph or 6.4 km/h range.

I would agree with plaidpaddler's 5-6 mph range for someone with experience, but if you're relatively new to the sport and / or haven't paddled together much I'm thinking you're going to be slower.

Of course, all of the assumptions I list above could have a drastic impact on your progress. Most importantly though, have a great time!

You say you are "inexperienced "
So I would say no more than 2 MPH (about 3 hours)

On the other hand if you click together you could easily do 3MPH



Performance enhancers
Two fit but otherwise total rookie canoeist can jump in a tandem canoe and move it right along by doing one of the following: either have the stern person use a double blade paddle OR with single blade paddles both use sit and switch type paddling stroke (paddle on opposite sides 4 to 6 strokes on a side, on sternman’s hut both paddlers switch sides). Correction and keeping the canoe heading fairly straight comes natural for either. Unless you have a stiff headwind, you should be able to move even an old hogback aluminum canoe along at 3 mph. 2 hours paddling will cover that 10K.

Once you are at your camsite and set up, go back out on the water with your partner. Have the sternman paddle on one side with a single blade (bownan is not paddling) using J strokes, forward srokes, and sweeps to hold the canoe in a straight line. Once the sternman gains some confidence in his/her correction strokes have the bowman start paddling lightly at first on the opposite side but gradually go up in force if things are going well with the sternman. Bowman back off if they are not going well in the stern. After that it’s just practice. Piece of cake.

1 mph
for the first half hour while you figure out how to work together. Working up to maybe 3 mph over the next half hour as your rythym gets better. You could keep 3 mph for a hour or so, but you will slow as the blisters raise and break.

Take it easy
Plan on 3 kph that will give you plenty of time to rest and tape any warm spots before you get blisters. I never heard anyone complain that they planned too little mileage for their first trip together. If you get to the campsite early you can set up and go back out with an unloaded canoe and explore some more.

3 hours (eom)

Thanks everyone for the helpful info

1 mph?
Ok maybe for the first hour. But blisters? In ten miles? I’ve used all sorts of cheapo junk paddles and good paddles too, but I never got blisters from ten miles a day.

Might try a test trip -
try paddling the same route, or maybe half of it, and back in a day to see how things click without the camping trip. Many variables - canoe type, paddle type, paddling coordination between partners - and your being in shape will help somewhat, but different sports usually work different sets of muscles and joints, so expect to break yourself in for paddling. Enjoy it!

Maybe your local library has a…
…video or book on basic paddling strokes that might be useful beforehand. We all presume you’re going to wear PFDs.