Newbie ques - upstream paddling vs. tran

I’ve been skimming info here and there as a wannabe (not even a newbie yet really) and I’m wondering - when day tripping

  1. do many people paddle upstream first “half way” then float back down?

    a) if so, how do you judge time and effort? How fast the stream

    flows? do experienced paddlers get to where they know they

    can go so far on a X knot river?

    b) or do people look at the speed of a rive when determining what

    type of trip they’ll do? (paddle up and back vs. transport)

  2. or do most people float down and get transport back?

    I’ve looked at livery ads here and there and I’m getting the

    picture that transport can certainly add a fair amount of

    cost to the day.

Depends upon the stream/river, availability of a shuttle, if you are looking for a workout in faster-flowing water, etc, etc, etc.

Some folks here are polers - standing in a canoe and moving both downstream and upstream via a setting pole (a quirky subset of the paddling universe).

Others always set a shuttle with multiple vehicles. SOmetimes shuttles are handled by “shuttle bunnies” (originally female, but now in the enlightened world of boating there are male SBs as well). Most of teh time shuttles are worked out by those on the water.

Having an outfitter shuttle you upstream does add a cost to the sday’s trip, but sometimes it is the most efficient way to handle multiple boats.

So many possibilities.


I’ve poled upstream and back on a
number of rivers, but I prefer to have shuttle so that I can run downstream. Nowadays, my wife usually does shuttle duty. She doesn’t care for whitewater unless it’s really easy.

up vs down
I often paddle up then down, and just as often down then up. As I got to know myself and the rivers I paddle I know how far I can go or how much time I have for the trip When I first started paddling rivers by myself I preferred to go upstream first, knowing that if i got tired I could dog it on the way back.

Paddling Friends
Beyond the obvious, a couple of great reasons to have paddling buds is to help each other in and out of paddling gear (anybody that owns a dry suit or dry top understands that one) and SHUTTLE.

Some paddlers do the “Bike Stash”. They hide and lock a bike at the take out and then lock the boat while riding back for the car. That is a lot logistics, but if paddling downstream is your only option and you are alone, it is an answer.

Other then that I can’t advise on the upstream paddling. That ain’t my bag.

oh… and don’t apologize or be concerned about being a pre-newbie. I am personally jealous of your status. i think the most fun I have ever had was “getting into paddling”. I miss those bright eyed days. I have seen some of my friends become snobs about the whole thing and it’s sad.

Have fun.


Kinda hard to predict…
…in my case, anyway. I don’t do much upstream paddling, but mostly poling. Even on my usual stretch of river, although I might have a plan I never know how far up I’m going to go before I float back down. It all depends on how distracted I get and what the water flow is that day. At least I know I can get back at least as quick as I got up.

If you find a group to paddle with, shuttle for local downstream trips can be pretty easily arranged. You only need one vehicle that can haul more than one boat. That gives you at least a single vehicle left at the bottom to transport drivers back to the boat-haul vehicles. Works best if you have at least one extra person to stay with the boats while vehicles are retrieved.

Don’t sweat the newbie questions. That’s all I posted about a year ago and most everyone here has been very helpful.

up & down
If I am alone I often paddle upstream then float and paddle back. Here around Nashville there are several rivers that work well for that. I get to explore and sight see both directions. The view is different in the opposite direction. With friends we most often shuttle, but not always. Up and down then too. Just enjoy whatever you are doing. The solitude is great and so are the friends. Remember, everyone here was a newbie once. Most all of us are still learning too.

There’s no standard method. but…
…arranging a shuttle to put a car or cars at the take-out and going only downstream is most commom for most people. Canoes and kayaks are basically pretty slow, and if you do an upstream-and-back trip, your overall mileage will be much less than when going downstream only. It doesn’t take much current to make upstream travel really slow. That’s okay though, as long as it’s what you are expecting. When I was in college, some friends of mine did a canoe trip down the Wabash River in north-central Indiana. They went downstream for what seemed an appropriate distance, then discovered that they had to paddle for a much longer time than they had prepared for in order to make the return trip. That’s why if you don’t know what to expect at first on a two-way trip, go upstream first.

I do the up and back a LOT
On several rivers in SE Wisconsin. Maybe even 40-50 percent of my summer trips. The time differential depends on the river, your boat and you.

It helps some to have a relatively fast boat, but it’s definately not a requirement.

I would even say it will make you a much stronger paddler and improve your foreward stroke a LOT.

The better paddler you become the farther up river you will start getting and the more variety of paddling spots you will have to choose from.

But also be aware of the wind. I have found on several rivers around here the paddle back can be nearly as much work if the wind blows you up river and you have to fight it all the way back. You sometimes don’t realize how hard it’s blowing till you turn around and get it in the face.

a tandem with two paddlers …

– Last Updated: Jan-29-09 11:28 PM EST –

...... makes a decent upriver run stretch out quite long ... easier on each than solo paddle .

canoe ...

everything the others have said too ... just do it , but start out going upstream for awhile . You can do both , go upstream from put-in , float on downstream past put-in , and paddle back upstream again , repeat over again to get used to it all at first . We might average 8 miles upstream paddling in a day of fishing with the downstream intervals mixed inbetween .

On average I'd say you get half the distance upstream as you would downstream in the same amount of time , that's not saying you can't get farther downstream if you are really driving hard downstream , but just avg. pace ... there are areas in the upstream when you may have too really dig in and paddle hard , fast current spots , etc. , but they are usually short lived and many can be avoided by an alternate course upstream .

I think it alot easier to paddle upstream many many miles on a fairly calm day than to paddle on an open mountain reservior on a strong windy day .

edit: ... marys1000 , in re-reading your post , I just noticed it was you , sorry I didn't catch that the first time ... you should start out on flatwater , calmer days ... enter the river paddling after you become quite comfortable on protected calm flawaters ... the river flows (sometimes fast and powerful and sometimes real slow) , moving water is a more advanced ball game with obsticals to be avoided and you should have confident paddle experience and basic skills before entering . A slow flat moving river is OK for you to start river paddling on , but please do the flatwater pond and lake stuff first for awhile ... wind is your other challenge , mild breeze no problem , heavy strong winds w/gust are a problem .

paddling upstream is just fun
paddling upstream is just fun in the right conditions. There is a section in the Delaware Water Gap at the Poxono Boat Access where many paddlers go upstream for about a mile then float back. It a great workout combined with a very peaceful effortless float back. Unfortunately the floating back part only lasts about 20-30 minutes. Even though its such a short trip its one of my favorite.

And there are a couple of islands that some paddle up to and camp for the night. I haven’t tried it yet.

If you are near the Delaware Water Gap you should give it a try.

welcome aboard pnet
generally, some nice and extremely helpful people post here. I hope you’ll become one.

All generalizations and stereotypes are bound to be wrong, but here are a few:

Most river runners like to arrange a shuttle and run downriver. That is especially true of the whitewater folks. Many of them only run downriver, and only paddle where there is challenging whitewater. Paddling upstream in challenging whitewater is very hard. Some ww folk post here, but I’d say most of the ww specialists find this community too tame and use other forums. Hiring shuttles gets expensive, so most of the people that run ww meet others and team up to run shuttle. There’s a lot of driving involved. A local club is probably your best avenue to meet this type, if that is what appeals to you.

For day trips, I think most flatwater paddlers return to the start point, so no shuttle is needed.

Shuttle is sometimes desireable on flatwater, so you can cover more ground.

Depending on where you are, you can get creative with your shuttles. I’ve used the metro system in DC for shuttle, hitch-hiked, roller bladed, and bicycle shuttled. Hired a few shuttles, too. And if there is a place frequented by lots of paddlers, I’ve just gone out, met people, and formed impromtu shuttles. Near DC, there are two runs where you can run downriver, carry your boat to the nearby C&O canal, and return to your car by the canal.

As time has passed, I’ve come to prefer the no-shuttle approach. So, I tailor my boating in that direction.

But the first thing you need to do is get out on the water. The rest you will figure out as you go along. And I am betting the p-net community will be here to help you out, just as they helped me. I look forward to hearing from you as your paddling career develops.


downstream both ways
If you are lucky enough to live on a sea coast, as I do in Oregon, you can by consulting your tide table,plan an estuary trip in which you put in and paddle up river on an incoming tide, keep going up through high slack,and, when you feel the tide turn,reverse course and float back down. Down hill both ways!! Or you can do it in reverse order. just be sure that you allow for any time variation between your put in and the stated location of record in your tide table. depending on how far up river tidewater flows, the variation can be as much as two hours or more.I like to paddle hard but it sure feels better with a three knot boost.


Paddle Upstream
On a fat, slow river, we will usually plan for half the time spent working upstream to return downriver.

One advantage
of an upstream paddle and float back is that you can paddle near to exhaustion and still return in relative comfort.


All of the above
I quite enjoy paddling and or poling up and back. I generaly figure on getting back in half the time I spend going up. But that will change with the current.

I always prefer going upstream first. Going down first it’s awful easy to get farther than you are comfortable paddling back.

Sooner or later you will want to paddle something with more current than you want to paddle against. Then you can pay a livery to shuttle you, or go with a club or friends and shuttle yourselves, or do a walking/bicycling/hitchhiking shuttle. That’s the sort of thing that forces a hermit like me to attempt sociability :wink: Likely a good thing just for that.


what i do
on solo runs, I like the bike shuttle option. I just drop a bike at the takeout and ride back to my car when I’m done, or depending on the distance, i just put a pair of running shoes in a drybag so I can run back to my car.

Hi Mary S. All these posts are right on
A newbe should start on flatwater. Learn boat control and basic manuvers, as you find them on this website. It would be a mistake to get into a moving river before you’ve mastered basic boat control and wet exits with recovery. A basic rule on the water is that your recovery from dumping is not complete until you’ve gotten all your gear back out of the water. Learn to tie things in the boat, EXCEPT your PFD, that’s a $ fine. Throw yourself over the side and practice holding onto your paddle while grabing the saftyline on your boat so it doesn’t get away. Always have a spare paddle securly attached to the boat. Learn how to empty your boat in deep water and get back in or sidestroke it to shore. Then you’re ready to practice the same skills in moving water. A new essential skill for moving water is the ferry. A ferry is when you move diagonally across the water without gaining forward distance. Again, its an essential skill. To do the ferry, first you gotta get good at leaning the boat in moving water.

All these skills are taught right here on Pnet. That’s how I learned them and much more.

Thanks, poling?
Thanks for comments. I am imagining that when I get up and running I will be trying to search out less traveled rivers/lakes/ponds in search of wildlife.

I’m not much of a planner so that doesn’t help either as knowing me I will just sort of look at a map, go search and hope for the best - within reason, I’m not an adrenaline junkie, not that there’s anything wrong with that:)

Not starting out in very good shape I had figured out that I better go upstream so I don’t find out whoops, too tired to get back! but was getting the impression that people don’t really do that much.

Poling sounds intriguing - but do you need to stand up? I thought there were only a few boat styles/types that you could stand up in?

So I can set up a shuttle with a livery occasionally but won’t be able to afford that all the time.

One thing learned - if I see some paddlers I’ll offer an assist.

…within Maine

– Last Updated: Jan-30-09 2:45 PM EST –

It's usually the SB or portaging, only with anything lengthy heading into late afternoon or possible early evening...the Xterra stays at putout...and with cold temps in early AMs..vice versa. With anything originating in deep it's a portage anyways, so in either case the essential step is to get started early!;-) ..But with some degree of knowledge of older cutting roads...a bike can work if alone.