Paddle types

Hey all! Newbie here. I have been canoeing since I was a kid. However, I am a novice when it comes to proper gear. I currently Dubuque Iowa and have been doing bigger and bigger canoe trips. Now that I have been doing multiple-day canoeing/camping trips on the Mississipi, gear suddenly makes a big difference!

My first question is canoe paddle types. I see the different types of paddles out there for rivers and lakes. However as the Mississippi is a bit of both, I was wondering what folks recommendations would be for paddle best suited for a several day trip on the Mississippi.

I’m certain I will have many more questions in the near future. Thanks for any tips!

Not a canoe expert. But I think that river paddles are made for moving water paddling (some level of white water), where lake paddles are made for calm water paddling. The Mississippi in your area I believe is basically a series of locked lakes, so would seem that lake paddles would more likely be the appropriate category to look at

I live on the Mississippi and work for a paddle company, so I’ve got a few thoughts on this.

In general for lakes I like a smaller blade, but for the river when you really just need to move across the channel, or even go upriver for a bit, a bigger blade can really help a ton, especially when you’re dodging barges. edit to add: I’ve also had a couple days where the wind just howls up the river too, so even paddling downstream can be hard to make any progress when it’s like that

I haven’t paddled around Dubuque yet, but at least up here in Winona a lot of the actual paddling is backwaters, sloughs, etc. Mostly a series of lakes, but when the river is really low you can pretty easily get into some really shallow backwaters where it’s a couple inches of water and then a few feet of mud, so in those cases some sort of square-tipped blade (something like our Gunflint paddle, but there are a million other choices from a lot of brands) makes sense since you can’t get much of the blade down into the water anyway, but with a square tip you can at least get the full width of the paddle’s worth in there.

Start with the basics. Straight shaft paddles have the most efficiency for kneeling paddlers. Bent shaft for sitting paddlers
The size of the blade has a lot to do with how fast your cadence is. Lightweight paddles with a smaller blade area are the ones high cadence paddlers use.
Larger blades go with slower cadence.
Ottertails are for deepwater. They have a slender shape. They are not suited for shallow water.
The wide bladed paddles as in Sugar Island shapes transmit turning forces better than narrow ones and for that reason are used where sharp turns are needed. They are more tiring over long distances than narrower blades.

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Other issue to consider is paddle length - when you are in your boat doing a stroke you want the blade submerged to just around the throat. Too short and the blade isn’t fully submerged, too long and the blade is too deep in the water - either way it effects the efficiency of the stroke. In my flatwater solo the seat is at 10" - I generally kneel with a 58" straight paddle. My whitewater solo has an 8" pedestal - little lower so I use a 56" straight paddle. I have a Wenonah Spirit II with bucket seats and foot braces that I paddle “sit and switch” style - still lower so I use a 54" bent shaft.

The paddle you choose depends on the type paddling that you do and the boat that your are in. I’ve never paddled the Mississippi, and probably never will, but the closest “big” river around here is the Connecticut, and I would use my Sprit II with the 54" bent shaft.

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All of the marathon and ultra marathon canoe paddlers use ZRE paddles. The reason is that they are so light that they don’t drag at you. The “bend” in the paddle keeps all of the work in front of you and uses your back muscles to pull the paddle, that keeps you from straining your back.

You do have to learn to feather the paddle during windy conditions, like OC-6 paddlers do.

Not quite all use the ZRE. Newman Designs GRB makes an equally light and fine performance paddle that many of us in the north country like to use. I have them in 6 different sizes for use on different boats and different seat positions. I have used mine on the 440 and 1000 mile Yukon River races five times and 23 times on the Adirondack 90 miler so far. Totaling countless thousands of miles during 25+ years of recreating, training and marathon racing.

Thanks for the tips. You had me a dodging barges. I think I will stick with a bigger blade. Much appreciated!

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Thanks! Ill be sure to get a proper length.