Northern paddlers ...

I guess I mean folks who paddle in a state that has winter. When do you typically put the boat away? Regrettably, when gun deer season starts, I am done with my canoe … focus on deer and ice fishing. How abotu the rest of you winter folk?


Keeps coming up…
his always comes up, lots, this time of year. Those of us with winter paddling clothing and comfort in handling a potential capsize don’t get off the water. If the ice stays open for us, we’ll be on the water thru the winter. The only change is that it may end up being just monthly Dec thru February because of holiday season and preferring to go out on a sunny day.

There is also a contingent that pretty much goes out breaking ice on Lake George for the New year’s polar bear swim.

Granted, come winter an enclosed kayak is a lot more attractive for warmth. But I suppose if I were a person who only canoed I’d be out in that.


– Last Updated: Nov-21-08 8:46 AM EST –

cut down alot on paddling and break out the skinny skis, skaters and classics. Love to ice fish too but the 2 week firearm deer season in N. Michigan hampers the fun in the woods. I'll do an overnite paddle every winter on local slow moving rivers, for my winter camping jones.

Never put all de boats away…

– Last Updated: Nov-21-08 1:45 PM EST –

Only some o' me wood railed Royalex boats go inta me family room fer de winter. Most o' me paddlin' be done fro' Mid September thru end o' May - iffin' de water ain't solid ah' go a'canooin'... Best time o' de year fer dis polecat. Joisey kin' git a'mighty cold in de winter but ah' loves it.


Define “having winter”…
Every body THINKS they have a real winter, but it’s in the eye of the beholder. I remember as a teen in northern Michigan, seeing a van full of Floridians hop out at a rest stop in July shudder and jump back in for sweaters and jackets. It was a perfect 65F degree morning, and I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Winters there hover between 0 and 20F usually, and the snow rarely gets over waist deep anymore. In the UP, homes have hatches in the roof so you can get in and out after a snow storm. I’d say they have real winters.

Now that I live in SW Michigan, I’d say we don’t have real winters here. The snow doesn’t stay; it comes and goes, and snowshoes and snow machines are a waste of money. Yeah, I can paddle year round here, but the best winter paddling is found well north and well up river. My favorite winter paddle was -8F on land, 34 down on the water…great trip.


The boats are done by the end of September or early October. Of course, folks paddle all year here in New England, I prefer to wax up the skiis and head north when things get cold.

I agree about winter being in the eye of the beholder. I grew up in Rochester, NY, it never ceases to amuse me to hear folks around here whine about the intense Boston winter! (Long gray and wet, but not terribly intense!)

Where I grew up
in SD there typically would be no open water come December - no paddling possibilities. There have been some unusually warm drought-ridden years since then, but I always remember walking across thick ice getting into December, making some money trapping. My folks are poor farmers and it was a very bad time for small farms. Dad would allow us to go trapping and help local farmers pulling weeds and throwing bails and what-all else so we could buy ourselves clothes. I moved to Casper, WY for a while. It’s up over 5,000 ft. A long winter, but not cold like a plains winter. I then lived in Boston for 6 1/2 years, and always commented on the mild winters in comparison. They do get winter there though, and can really get dumped on with snow. That’s where I took up kayaking, and I loved going out on a calmer day with heavy snow. Something about paddling along watching snow build up on the deck. Everything is so quiet and peaceful on days like that. No, winter had no effect on my paddling frequency up there. But I didn’t feel tough for it. Paddling in the harbor along S Boston one Christmas morning (temp lower 20’s F) one of the L Street guys was doing some swimming out there, and no, no wetsuit or anything of the like. Came to find it’s their normal thing. I gave those guys the “tough” status.

Winter paddling
We paddle all winter in strong current and ice floes.

With proper expericnce and clothing, it’s quite enjoyable.

The only difference is that the list of invitees is shorter than in summer.

No-one wants to be out there with someone who is a hazzard to themselves or others.

First time paddling to ice over
Slowly adding clothing. Down to one 5 mile race a week Sunday mornings on a river.

Not sure if I’ll make it to ice over or not. May switch from surfski to plastic boat and keep going when ice does start to form.

off the water
Bowseason and solid ice keep me off the water.

up here in Canada
my boats never sleep as i moved to the Pacific largely for year round paddling. Island rivers flood only in winter rains so ww paddling has just begun, sea kayaking gets sportier with greater winds and turbulence but lake paddling essentially ends in a month as the lakes are inland and up Island where the temps get below freezing in the night… so i guess the canoe goes into hibernation.

when it’s frozen
I keep one boat ready to go year round. I skip the paddling when the only open water is class III and up. Nothing like high speed beaching onto ice shelves under a full moon, right DougD? You can actually get about 20 feet onto the ice before you stop. Not dead yet, but that might be just luck…

The L Street Brownies!!

– Last Updated: Nov-21-08 12:13 PM EST –

I work just up the road, and I belonged to L Street for 6 years. Their is a dry sauna and wet sauna right by the door to the beach at L Street bath house, (which doesn't take anything away from their insanity but it made a little more sense when I saw the routine: have a short sauna, take a swim, then run back to the sauna.) Still, they're some crazy folks.

Met a very capable paddler from Squantum this summer who invited me to join him for some winter paddling, dry suits are so expensive . . . .

Though less cold-tolerant than in my
youth, I still get out on a river once every week or so, here in Georgia. We often have days when the daytime high gets into the 50s. Right now, our problem is our severe drought. Most of our dam-controlled rivers (Hiwassee, Ocoee, Nantahala) are “off,” and there is no water in everything else. Normally, winter is our “good water level” time.

Boats dont sleep all winter
Winter is tough as there are more choices. There is skiing both xc and downhill and ice fishing on the lake and snowmobiling and snowblowing.

Paddling is less frequent with less time because of all those activities but with the ocean 45 minutes away its still on the list.

Because we get a fair amoung of snow sometimes access prevents us from getting on the water easily…we have to research if the access has been plowed.

What is this strange phrase …
… “put the boat away”?

Here in Wisconsin, we paddle whenever we can, even if it means breaking our own path like Shackleton:

If that’s not possible, we visit the local power-plant cooling pond, affectionately known as Lake Blinky:

December through March, we paddlers never have to fight for a spot at the boat ramps!


my favorite time
of year to paddle is winter, although this year I might hike a bit more. The arctic blast came in too quick for me this week, no adjustment time. If you look through my paddling albums, you’ll notice very few albums with leaves on the trees, and this day with Eckilson, MintJulep, ScottW2 and my son Aaron was a typical great day on the river.

Spring and summer I sail weekends, paddle weekdays after work, but the winter is time for weekend paddling, at least once I get used to this 20 degree weather again…

As long as possible
We plan on extending our paddling season as long as possible. No dry suits yet but working on it. I just can’t stand the thought of not paddling for months on end.


I usually don’t; there’s always hope!
But my paddling is definitely curtailed in winter (WNY).

Usually the Niagara River stays open until the shore ice gets too thick to get out into the river.

But seems there’s always a warm up even for one weekend a month in the dead of winter, when a little creek will open up or one can get into the river.

Otherwise, I spend my winter taking pics and a little snowshoeing or mild hiking (more like winter walks).

Northern Wisconsin
I’m at the other end of the state from you, about 10 miles from Minocqua. Gun deer season opens in the morning. I’ll be in my stand till 7:30 or 8:00 AM, but after that I’m going out on Trout Lake near Boulder Junction till 3 o’clock or so, then back in the tree stand till dark. They say it’s gonna be 5 to 7 below in the morning, That will be the coldest day so far this season. Smaller lakes around here got ice around the edges about 30 to 50 feet out now. Trout Lake is 2 miles wide and 5 miles long and very deep, so it’s one of the last lakes to freeze up. I probably only got 3 weeks of open water left.