Newb to paddling

I would like to start day canoe trip with my family. The children are 1 and 3 currently. We are close to the Catawba river and are looking to paddle between the Mountain Island Dam and the Lake Wylie dam. When my wife and I have been kayaking a couple of times before the water was calm. Is it calm most of the time (class 1 or less)? And would this be a good place to start with the family?

Not clear if you, as parents, have
the canoeing experience to be carrying very young kids on rivers. We started our kids at about 1.5 to 2 years, first on small lakes, then on easy whitewater. By that time, I was paddling class 3+ regularly, and my wife and I were doing class 2+ regularly.

When we took our littlies in easy whitewater, we had chase boats, friends who stayed close enough to “pick up the pieces” if we had a mishap.

If you’re going to stay in Carolina, I suggest getting a guidebook describing all the river sections that may be of interest. You might want to seek out one or more local canoe clubs who are running easy trips.

Don’t try to go it alone. Share in some mutual support.


this is a good site

I agree, don’t go it alone with the babies

More info
Thanks for your input so far. Encouragement and concerns are always welcome.

We are going to get ourselves as parent comfortable before we try the little ones. And we would like for the little ones to be able to swim before we go as well. The 3 year old is pretty good just need to work on the 1.5 year old.

From my limited experience that part of the river is very calm and easy to start out on just like a small lake.

Just wanted to know if it is like that 90% of the time?

Wind, fishing web sites

– Last Updated: Mar-25-13 3:08 PM EST –

Depending on the specifics of the stretch of river, you could hit days where the water appears mostly calm but there are spots where the wind is enough to throw you a problem. Canoes have more windage than kayaks. Or you may find a pattern to be aware of as well, like a stretch where the wind tends to come up more strongly during some part of the day because of surrounding topography.

Historical weather data for an area can be found on sites like or weatherunderground. An often overlooked source of good information is the fishing web sites, if this is an area favored by anglers.

The link I sent you will give you real time stream flow data. Check the river at different flow rates and soon you will know the conditions based on the data

I also
agree about not bringing the babies the first run. Even on lakes if the wind picks up you can find yourself in whitecaps really fast. Doesn’t take much to flip over if weather conditions change on you. I also like the chase boats idea (if you do decide to bring the kids with). Also, what is the water temp there right now?

If it’s in the 50’s - low 60’s you’re looking at wetsuit / drysuit weather. What if you & the kids end up swimming ??

I would encourage you to run this with another paddler

or two first, before you take the kids out. Just make sure you have the right gear for the conditions.

I don’t want to “discourage” you from any type of paddling. Just be safe & smart. Most of all, have FUN!

I don’t know anyone else who paddles in the area currently. And I also wasn’t planning on paddling for another month or two. The only classes I can find are for whitewater canoeing and I am just looking for relaxing flatwater canoeing similar to tubing.

That is more like a lake then a river
but what you need to do before you go out is check the wind.

Always check the weather using several different weather sites before going paddling.

With little ones, you would be best only going when the wind is “light and variable”.

Even eight to ten MPH can cause a light chop

jack L

Water conditions

– Last Updated: Mar-25-13 6:19 PM EST –

Other folks here have covered the most important safety points, and though "I'm not from around there", I've looked at enough air photos of rivers to get a pretty good idea what's there by that method.

Along the stretch you describe, I see no indication that there'd ever be any riffles, and certainly not rapids. The air photos I looked at were obviously taken in early spring so the water might have been high, but the auxiliary spillway and its associated channel at the upper end were bone dry at the time, so I'm sure the water can get a lot higher still than that which I looked at. Anyway, at that water level it appeared that all but the extreme upper end of this stretch is somewhat impounded, and there were indications at several locations that the current was quite slow (the best example is the plume of effluent from the sewage plant that's a little upstream of I-85. There's a jet of clear water shooting straight out from the plant, with no downstream movement at all). I'd be careful about going out in high water until knowing more, but otherwise I see no particular hazards. There are lots of downed trees on one bank or the other in the upper parts of that stretch, which could present a danger, especially if you need to pull over to shore and also especially before your maneuvering skills are up to snuff. Even the narrowest parts of that stretch of river are pretty wide, and as others have said, wind will be a problem some days (increasingly so as you go farther downstream). I didn't pay any attention to mileage, but you should. Depending on how much paddling you've done, it might be good to start out with much shorter trips than seem reasonable. It's easy to overestimate how far you can easily travel, especially with not much experience to work with.

A problem with that link

– Last Updated: Mar-25-13 7:46 PM EST –

The stretch of river described in that link, and the associated gauge, is a LONG way upstream in North Carolina (not South Carolina), and there are a great many dams and lakes between there and the part of the river being discussed. With so many dams between there and the subject stretch of river, gauge readings don't mean much, unless perhaps the river is in flood and all dams are wide-open, but in that case you don't need gauge readings to know conditions are bad. There should be gauges farther downstream, closer to the OP's home turf, but the one in the link is mostly useless.

On the other hand, the OP might eventually consider taking a road trip to that part of the river as skills improve. It looks a lot more interesting up that way.

And, if the canoe carries less than
its proper loading range, high wind or gusts can cause it to weather vane into the wind, or blow around and skate downstream.

We were running the KY river with good current, but a cold front came through, blew the canoe around, and we were unable to proceed. We stopped at an old farm, and the farmer, who had no phone, drove us up out of the valley in his Model A Ford, to where we could summon my cousin to pick us up.

I always check wind forecasts when I’m running open boat. It can affect my planning more than water level. It’s a different matter with decked boats, which present much less wind resistance.

Thank you for everyone that posted. I will take all the suggestions into consideration.

Paddling Carolina
there are a few meet up paddling groups in the area. Check those out. I did, and found what I wanted, a group that likes paddling in Charlotte area.