Frozen Paddling

A Winter Canoe Excursion

It was a sunny, warm winter afternoon and the original plan had been to hit the slopes. But the idea of launching the canoe for a winter paddle had come up a few times, and we decided this was the day. We loaded up our Swift canoe and aimed for our usual launch spot in Epping. En route, we started considering what would be different about paddling past snow-lined river banks. What we hadn’t considered is what would be different about just getting there. A few of our usual roads are no winter maintenance, the parking lots we rely on were thigh deep, and the launch at Epping was totally iced in.

Not to be discouraged, we headed to Heathcote, which was also totally iced in. We settled for a sideroad between the two, where we could see there was enough open water to paddle upstream for a while. After finding a spot where the ice wasn’t too thick along the shore, we slid the canoe, toboggan-style into the river. The toughest part was choosing a section of shore to stand on that was actually ground, not ice or snow. Once on the water, we quickly learned some key things about winter canoeing. Check out the photos below for a look at a beautiful afternoon on the Beaver River.

Nothing says Canada like a frosty canoe.

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Parking on snowbank-lined roads is at premium. Canoe launches are not on the plow list…

Canoe transport is easier with a coating of snow.

The river was fairly calm but surprisingly fast moving.

A shallow section with a fast current cost Cory a paddle blade. This one’s been in the family for a few decades so it’s days were numbered for sure.
You definitely don’t want to be on winter water without a paddler with strong steerage skills. Ice on river bends is deceptive, protruding out into the river much farther below the surface than what’s visible on top.

To take a break, we eased our way onto the icy shoulder of the river. The current made stopping difficult anywhere else.
Keeping it in the middle is key.

Admittedly, I never felt as ‘at ease’ as I do on a summer paddle, it was still amazing to be on the river.

Snowbanks make great paddle storage when packing up.
Even in the middle, these surprisingly solid icebergs are your constant companions.

Frozen racoon prints on the banks.

Winter sky.