Night Paddle???

Opinions wanted:

It seems that whenever my wife and I both have time off from work together and are looking to paddle we seem to have nice days with wind. As the wind frequently dies down at night the thought has crossed my mind that maybe we can paddle after dark. We would be on a smaller flat river mainly but there is a 3/4 mile long lake to deal with and a not real big dam which we would never want to go over. We both have pretty good headlamps.

Has our long winter taken it’s toll on my common sense or is this something others do as well? We would need to have a clear night with moonlight to illuminate the “sights”.


Sometimes it’s better with no moon.
You will appreciate the stars more.

use to do it all the time
A few years back when RedCrossRandy and this

Bald one were training for the Clinton we would paddle at night all the time. Take common sense precautions and enjoy. It is a totally different world at night on the water…

Go for it
There’s nothing like paddling under a full moon on a clear night. Just be sure it is a clear night! Be very familiar with the water you are paddling, especially if it is a river. Bring a powerful flashlight just in case. If I am on a trip with multiple boats, I like to hand out those green glow strips so everyone can keep track of where everyone else is.

It is a different world on a lake or river at night, with calling peepers, toads, tree frogs etc., an occasional hoot of an owl or the otherworldly croak of a night heron. Mysterious splashes off the bow (use caution in beaver country, a good tail slap can scare the beejeesus out of you if you’re not ready for it).


Nothing wrong
with paddling at night. Stay on water you know, wear your PFD and enjoy. It is often better not to use lights as you will see better when your eyes adjust to the dark. Use them only when necessary. You will see and hear things you don’t during the day.

You should definitely do this

– Last Updated: May-08-08 11:25 AM EST –

The difference between paddling at night and paddling in the daytime is the same as that between paddling and not paddling, because paddling at night is a completely different experience. Depending where you go, you may hear all sorts of wildlife you never would have guessed was there, or maybe you'll just marvel at how far sound travels over the water at night (that little dam you speak of will sound much larger and much closer than it really is the first couple of times you paddle near it at night!). Paddling at night during heavy rain is pretty cool too. One time in particular that I remember (and I wrote about it here), I was out at night when storms were all around, and I heard this loud spooky hissing sound that got louder and louder - it was the sound of a rainstorm rushing toward me. You don't experience that sort of thing in the daytime.

The advice about paddling on familiar waters is good in many cases, but depending on the water, paddling at night on new waters can be perfectly fine. Most years I paddle at least as much at night as I do in the daytime.

Oh, one other thing. I try to use a light as seldom as possible. Sometimes that makes things a little spooky (I find newbie night paddlers are a lot more uncomfortable about this than someone like me who's been going out on the water at night "forever"), but that's part of the experience. I'd have to say there are major "plusses" to paddling on full-moon nights AND very dark nights, so be sure to do both.

Do it,
I don’t do river paddling at night though. Around here, too many things can change in the river since last visit. You should know the water you are paddling at night very well before venturing.

I go quite often in the lakes and reservoirs near me. The lakes are pretty much obstacle free.

I rarely use a light except to signal other boats with a hand light. I like to preserve my night vision. After about 20 minutes on a no-moon night, I can see quite well by starlight. Nothing like having that pesky beaver you almost paddled over slap so close to you that you get wet and you did not even see it first. I often prefer the night as the skiers and jet skies are all gone. Nothing but fishermen and stealth paddlers.

night time paddling
We go to Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis and paddle at night. Its great. During the day its busy as people are rollerblading and canoing. At night its quiet and the water is usually calm.

My work schedule allows for
very little personal paddling. So, when I dont have to teach on saturday evenings, I will leave at five thirty pm and hang out on a beach and wait til dark and then paddle for several hours throughout the night and enjoy my day off by napping and sitting in the sun at home

I recently have fallen in love with these overnights

Finding takeouts

– Last Updated: May-08-08 1:25 PM EST –

and entries to cuts (or streams) can be very difficult at night. You lose so much of your depth perception that the coves and bays you normally use for reference can just seem to be straight shoreline. Some people leave a light at their put-in (if returning there for take-out). Just make sure it has fresh batteries. Having a GPS to mark the take-out is a real plus. If you do not have a GPS, try to find some very large visual reference like a hill-top or lighted attennae tower during daylight so you can use it at night.

Making a trial timing run in daylight is also very good. Knowing how long it usually takes you to get to various points along the route can keep you from making a major wrong assumption of where you are on the route. Once you know approximately where you are by time, it is so much easier to pick out landmarks in the dark.

Have fun.


Night paddling is AWSOME
I love paddling at night with a little moonlight. Been caught on the river at night with no light and the moon went down. That’s dark.

Take a light if you are going to be on a lake but don’t turn it on until you hear a boat and let the boat see the light. The light will ruin you night vision so wait till the boat passes then turn the light out and wait for your night vision to become effective and Paddle on.

Have fun

Paddlin’ on


just make sure…
leave those headlamps off while paddling. You will only be able to see 20 or 30 feet, when everything you want to see will be 100 times that far.

Check boater laws of your state
In some states (mine is one) you MUST display a light that can be seen from all directions (commonly called a 360 light) Generally, its placed behind you, so it doesn’t affect your night vision. As for lighting at night that won’t hurt the night vision, a headlamp with red or green lights as well as white will allow you to see nearby…mainly in the boat…and not hurt night vision or attract insects.

There are few things as cool…
…as quietly sliding out on to an absolutely glass-like lake, no moon, with as many stars BELOW you as above. Lay back, and drift.

The sights and sounds are fine. Let your eyes get adjusted. I wear an led headlamp but do not keep it on. Work in the dark. Get used to it.

I also carry a kick-ass 4C-cell Xenon-bulb (battery eater) Princeton Tec dive light. With practice, you can light up a spot on any number of cool animals. It is also useful to ward off boats headed your way. It is so bright, that if you jiggle it up and down they think you are an on-comming speed-boat. (Likewise useful in winter when cross-county skiing.)

One other thing…
to be aware of. If you choose an evening just before the full moon, it will rise just before sunset, giving you a well-lit journey.

The evenings after a full moon, the moon rises later and later.

But definitely do paddle in the dark.


Great light
On trips I always take my PC Lite by Ikelite or a mini “C”. They are real spoilers. I don’t own a conventional flash light.

Ditto all above
I especially agree that flashlights can actually make your vision worse in most situations. Learned this at Girl Scout camp. I would have a headlamp in case you need it or want to see a specific obstacle, but for overall viewing, leave them off.

Make sure you are well aware of the dam location. Things look different at night.

Night time is the time when most of the world retreats inside and definitely a cool time to be out and about!!

Sounds unanimous!
We will definately give it a try. While the dam is only about a 10 ft drop, it is a good 75-100 ft across and never silent. It shouldn’t pose a problem though as we know the water pretty well. Will most likely only need the headlamps to navigate around any obstacles if needed and I do have a super bright Surefire flashlight that will brighten things up for a good distance. Sounds like it will be a blast!

Thanks for all the responses.


Night paddling is wonderful
All the advice here is to be heeded. Go ahead, do it!

When paddling downstream, I hang a couple of glow sticks in the bushes just above and at the take out BEFORE we launch. Lesson learned the nervous way! (It’s just above an 80’ dam!)

My experience with headlamps: lots of eyes along the banks looking at us! Racoons, skunks, deer, beaver, muskrats, etc. Doesn’t really affect my night vision much, since there is little reflected light back. I just don’t look down at the kayak deck.

Flatwater at night is more relaxed!

George in Cody

get red lenses for your headlamps. The red lens will not ruin your night vision but you will be able to see things like map and compass when needed. It is also visible by other boats.