If the cooler weather up north doesn’t sound appealing, consider a trip to Georgia, home of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Once you reach the confluence, make sure to dip a toe to feel the distinction between the typically cooler White River and the warmer Buffalo waters.
Thrill seekers will find their match on the Toluene River, which runs through deep gorges and forests on its way from the high Sierra Nevada's to the Central Valley. Although the Toluene put-in is near Yosemite, the 149-mile body of water doesn’t have too much boating traffic, thanks to regulations on the number of trips permitted to launch each day.
Mention the word “paddle” to most people, and you may get references to “being up the creek without one,” the movie Deliverance, or corporal punishment handed out at Catholic schools in their childhood. But when I hear the word “paddle,” it immediately conjures up indelible images from my favorite canoe trips around the world.
Amid gorgeous scenery, this 72-mile long, rectangular circuit of lakes and rivers is a great one for beginners. There aren’t either many portages, and you can rent wheels that attach to the bottom of your canoe and roll it down the trails, which include boardwalks along rough, boggy sections.
I’ll never forget watching it set on the ocean at one end, while seeing the silhouette of a cruise ship far off in the distance at the other. Alligator in Okefenokee National Park, photo by John Gear Referred to as “the swamp” by locals, Okefenokee National Park is another great place to see wildlife… as long as you don’t mind keeping company with alligators.
But gators aren’t the only wildlife you’ll likely see there: Black bears call the Okefenokee home, as do white-tail deer, ospreys, herons, woodpeckers, hawks, and sandhill cranes. Although you can paddle your own canoe or kayak through here– and many locals do– your best bet is to book an experienced outfitter to keep from getting lost.
The snorkeling and Scuba diving there is fantastic, with all kinds of cool coral and multitudes of exotic-looking fish, including reef squid and the occasional barracuda. Our base camp was near Placenta, a center of Garifunaculture, which features a conch-shell sidewalk and a bar/post office to visit before or after your kayak trip.
While it is threatened by logging and other business interests, the Amazon still encompasses the world’s largest continuous cover of tropical rainforest. Still, we did see a caiman, several parrots, toucans, a harpy eagle and tracks of what looked like a jaguar along the muddy banks of the river.
The 5-day trip was led by Moi, chief of the Guarani, the indigenous people on whose land we camped each night as part of our journey. Boundary Waters, photo by Reid Priedhorsky via Creative Commons Located on the border of northeastern Minnesota and the southwest border of northwestern Ontario, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area is considered the canoe mecca of North America.
Consisting of thousands of lakes, rivers, marshes and woodlands, and home to all the diverse wildlife that lives in the boreal forest, it has been on my bucket list for years. Hippos in Okaying Delta, photo by Susan Portnoy via TheInsatiableTraveler.com If you’re an avid paddler, but want to experience the wild adventure of an African safari, this canoe trip is the answer to your prayers.
The area is home to several highly endangered species, including cheetahs, white and black rhinos, and African wild dogs… which is probably why it’s a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can also paddle on Ha Long Bay and visit Cambodia’s Angkor Was, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While there is plenty to do on a trip like this, you probably won’t run across any surfers playing “Ride of the Valkyries.” And you definitely don’t want to shoot any tigers. The Vienna Bridge in Lava’u, photo by Tauolunga via Creative Commons This is another kayak trip that’s been on my bucket list for a while now.
Dreams of Lava’u‘s crystal clear waters, sparkling sand beaches and hidden marine caves, combined with the chance of seeing whales and dolphins while plying the warm South Pacific waters, tug at my spray skirt in an enticing manner. In addition to paddling, you can also enjoy various Kerala tours focused on bird watching, fishing, and other activities.
John Gear began a life-long love affair with outdoor adventure at Southern Ontario’s Camp Richildaca, and eventually developed a desire to help conserve our disappearing wilderness. Initially enrolled in forestry, his passion for media launched a career as a sports journalist in the Maritime, then Western Canada.
A wilderness trip in a canoe is a privilege few people experience in their lifetimes. This 740-mile water trail runs from Old Forge, New York in the Adirondacks to Fort Kent, Maine.
It’s a recently completed trail and sets the standard for how things should be done to create such resources. It started when private landowners collaborated with public entities, power companies, and other interested parties to create a continuous trail.
Large, clear lakes like Angeles and Magog contain lovely bays and small inlets. You’ll experience flat water for long stretches, punctuated by Class II (and a few III) rapids.
Bugs can be a problem in wet seasons, but it varies wildly based on your area. Because there are some public lands, there are a few old cabins along the shore of some lakes, and the rivers have dams that one must carry around.
Periodically you’ll be reminded that you’re in New England, as you pass under covered bridges and near small towns where the steeples of white churches predominate from river level. Between the United States and Canada in northern Minnesota, this 1.1 million acre wilderness area is a great resource.
It butts up against Quantico Provincial Park, separated by as little as a few hundred feet of water. The portages range from a nice, smooth path to a bushwhack through mud, rocks, roots, and combinations thereof.
Black bears are fairly common, as well as moose, and if you’re lucky, even a wolf or two. The Common Loon (the Minnesota state bird) warbles its haunting call at dusk, and you know you’ve left civilization behind.
During the blueberry season you can pick a full Neogene bottle in fifteen minutes and eat them just as fast. Both Quantico and the Boundary Waters are wilderness areas, but that doesn’t mean they’re empty.
Thousands of people visit the area every summer, and some brave souls in the spring and autumn. Personally, I love autumn as there are no bugs, fewer people if any, and spectacular colors as the aspens turn and the pines and spruces remain green.
Biting black flies in early season can make your life miserable without netting and DEET. I’ve seen grown men cry like a baby when they find a leech sucking away.
Skill Level : Beginners are okay with shorter loops and help from an experienced paddler or a reputable paddling shop. Here you can find maps and talk to other paddlers who have experience in YWCA/Quantico and love to share their knowledge.
The Johann is an ancient river, cutting a path even when mountains rose and blocked its way. It features abundant rapids and waterfalls, including the famous (to canoeists) Virginia Falls.
The walls of these canyons rise to over 1000 feet tall with little access to shore, making it an expert’s river if paddling in a self-guided group. Due to the unique nature of the geology of the river, the ecosystems surrounding it are a rare and special once in a lifetime treat.
A rare species of orchid lives on the walls near Virginia Falls due to the considerable mist that blankets them. Surrounding the river are also caribou herds, grizzly bears, various alpine sheep and goats, wolves, and other macro fauna.
Because of its remote nature, access is generally by float plane and resupply is impractical (air drop), which means you are self-contained for one to three weeks. Float planes are expensive, but the payoff is that less than 1,000 people a year visit this gem, so your opportunity for solitude is unparalleled.
Skill Level : Expert, though beginners in good physical shape can do this trip with a guide. They have been running trips on the Johann, and their owner, Wendy Grater is one of the most experienced guides I know.
Managed by the National Park Service, the 132-mile Buffalo changes personalities as it travels its course. The upper sections are extremely technical and beautiful whitewater, suitable only for expert paddlers.
That’s a good thing, as water levels are important in determining the ability to paddle. An elk herd was introduced in 1981, joining the deer, turkey, feral hogs, and a host of other macro fauna.
Hundreds of species of wildflowers live along the river, bringing an explosion of color in the spring. An elk herd was introduced in 1981, joining the deer, turkey, feral hogs, and a host of other macro fauna.
Hundreds of species of wildflowers live along the river, bringing an explosion of color in the spring. Camping is available along the river way, both in established park service campsites and on sandbars.