Newbie ques - upstream paddling vs. tran

"most people"
do NOT start their paddling careers by trying to go upstream, I don’t think. (Youngish world-beaters excepted.) A new person does not realize how difficult it is to learn to handle the canoe, let alone, handle it AND deal with current working against you.

I totally agree that upstream work can be fun, and is always a good not to say strenuous workout, BUT a person should have some experience on calm conditions, and then gentle downstream currents, first.

I believe that’s best, in the interests of safety.

Good luck Mary!

Depends on the river
My wife and I always go up river first in our tandem canoe. When we get pooped, we have an easy paddle back to the car. However, when we paddle a larger river like the Wisconsin we end up paddling downstream first simply because of where we can put in (below a dam). Either way can work under the right circumstances. 1.5-2.5 cfm tends to be what we paddle but there are some quicker sections that do present a challenge.

You might want to take a look for a canoe/kayak rental business. Many offer classes and will provide shuttle services along with the rentals.


tennis shoe shuttle
Then there’s the Harpeth River near Nashville. Put in at the Harpeth Narrows Day Use Area, float 7 miles downstream around a big horseshoe bend, and end up about 100 yards from where you put in.

Upriver for newbies
In my area there are several upriver trips that can be done by newbies. We did one of them after learning about it from a guide book. See if there is a flat water canoeing guidebook for your area that will list some suitable trips. What you would be looking at for starters is anything described as “lake-like” or “very little current and no drops”

Trips such as these are no problem after your basic familiarization with your boat and it’s operation. I enjoy two-way trips more, because you see much more of a given stretch of the river that way. You will see a shorter distance of river, but know it better.

Poling - yes, you stand to do it. Maybe not a beginner activity, but I started after my first year. To tell the truth, I am more competent with a pole than with a paddle. That’s probably not such a good thing overall…

Shortcut the Horseshoe
Or, you can take that little shortcut on the right past the put-in and circumvent the next 6 miles :-o

Varies by river, but most seem to shuttl

– Last Updated: Jan-31-09 12:01 AM EST –

When we went to FL for vacation and paddled there, people were shocked that we actually paddled "upstream." Mind you, the ones we paddled were so flat as to have no detectable current except in one sinuous, tight stretch at certain times. That one must have been under tidal influence.

I hate shuttles...but ask around some more. On our first FL paddle, arranged by an acquaintance, the shuttle was included in the very inexpensive rental fee. It was something like $35 per person/boat for a half day of rental plus shuttle service. And we got new sea kayaks of our choice as the rentals. Still, the shuttle simply was not necessary because the current was so slight.

One note of caution
Lots of great ideas, information, and opinions in this thread so far IMHO.

My note of caution is that novice paddlers should seriously consider paddling with a group rather than paddling all alone. I believe that it is much more likely that a novice paddler will experience some sort of situation where they might need help and paddling with a group might save their life. If you are paddling with a group, paddling upstream is not necessary as a shuttle becomes much easier and more practical.

Still, there are many benefits of paddling upstream. I have found that it greatly improved my paddling technique and river reading skills. I also was surprised how much more I will notice river features, wildlife, and scenery paddling upstream as opposed to downstream.

For wildlife observation it is much easier and more enjoyable to paddle downstream IMHO. I find it much easier to sneak up on wildlife while paddling or floating downstream. The rub is that I don’t always notice as much going downstream as I do while paddling upstream. Go figure.

As far as safety goes, paddling upstream is probably a little bit safer than paddling downstream in most cases. The hazards on a river are usually safer to approach from the downstream side and you will approach them much more slowly. Caution should still be taken and hazardous spots on the river avoided as you paddle upstream because, as you paddle past a hazardous spot, you could end up spending more time in the “danger zone”.

Bottom line, upstream or down, novice paddlers will be much safer while paddling with a group.

Experience and lots of it is your best .
bet when paddling up stream and then returning.

even in the same river the conditions differ from day to day.

A good rule of thumb that “the bride” and I use, and then again this depends on the current is about two thirds the distance up.

There is nothing like the use of a good bike ride for a shuttle though -Get double the excercise !

Cheers, from the chilly Florida Keys as this cold front blows through.


on the upstream safety. Much better going up than down. Usually there are eddys and slow current areas on the rivers that you can use to go up. Even if not, its not that bad going in faster current as long as its not faster than your hull speed.

harpeth straights
That is where I plan on canoeing. I won’t have to paddle upstream and seven miles or so down the river I am back to where I started.