Beginners Guide to Canoeing on Ottawa River

Published: August 6, 2022
Last updated: January 9, 2023
Two friends canoe the Ottawa river wearing lifejackets

Have you ever canoed before? If you have, you’ll know that the canoe can at times be difficult to manoever compared to a kayak. The canoe is larger than a kayak and the hull (body of the boat) is open with a smaller deck (top covering) when compared to the large enclosure which tops the kayak. The small deck found on canoes may make paddling feel less stable. However, in a canoe you can fit more supplies and carry more people than a typical kayak. In terms of canoe paddles, at Locations Escape we have the standard t-grip wooden paddle in a variety of sizes to accommodate all customers.

History of canoeing?

As far as a history of canoeing in Canada, the Indigenous and Inuit peoples of Canada were the first to create and use these boats in addition to a variety of other water crafts. These designs were the base of the canoes that we use today and were also coincidentally adopted and used by European explorers in Canada. One of such explorers, the infamous Jaques-Cartier is the namesake of the park which Locations Escape calls home.

At Locations Escape we want you to make the most out of your experience on the water; therefore, we have compiled a list of 3 easy tips to remember when canoeing!

  1. Stay calm! Trying a new sport, especially one preformed on the water can be both exciting and stressful Taking a deep breath always helps! When entering the canoe it is important to use slow controlled movements as it can feel unsteady at times. If you hold onto the edges on either side of the boat with both hands the equal distribution of weight, helps keep the boat balanced. One person will enter the canoe at a time while our staff hold the canoe steady. The heavier of the pair will sit at the back of the boat while the other will take up the front seat. It is easy to differentiate seats and the direction of paddle based on the amount of leg room provided by the boat. If a child or third person wants to ride in the canoe they can sit wherever they are most comfortable (usually on the bottom of the boat).

  2. Now that you’re in the boat, have fun! Trust your partner and try taking a few paddles. Traditionally canoes can be steered with certain paddle techniques but since most people are just beginner paddlers the boat can be steered via force. For example if you want to turn to the left paddle harder on the right and vice versa. Try out a few test strokes and see where the boat goes. Just remember, always stay calm and try not to move too sporadically as this can unbalance the boat. At Locations Escape we require all of our customers to wear a lifejacket in the boat and equip each vessel with a safety kit incase of an emergency. 

  3. Finally, communication! When paddling with someone else, it is important to communicate clearly with each other. Is your partner paddling too hard on one side causing the boat to veer in the wrong direction? Is the canoe tipping to one side over another? These problems can be easily fixed by a) focusing on paddling only as hard as the slowest partner and b) by taking a few moments to adjust your weight within the boat. Canoeing is really not as hard as people believe it to be. The Ottawa river receives an influx of a variety of boats each day and this requires our paddlers to follow certain safety rules on the water. These rules are outlined in our previous blog post on paddling safety tips which we highly recommend that you read prior to engaging in any water sports on the Ottawa river. However, the most important takeaway when it comes to canoe paddling and other boats is to face any wake that you may receive from speedboats head on! This allows your boat to rock up and down rather than side to side which helps maintain the balance and the proper distribution of weight.

If you have any other questions or want to learn more about canoeing, kayaking or paddleboarding (SUP) you can visit these reputable sites!

If you want to enjoy the beautiful Ottawa River and are interested in renting a canoe you can reserve right now on our website!

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