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Up A Creek

My years in the great outdoors have frequently involved a canoe, and normally it’s a tranquil experience that brings me closer to nature. But sometimes I’ve been in predicaments I’d like to forget.

Back in the mid-1990s, I joined some friends back home in Green County for a canoe and fishing trip on the Little Barren River. About 10 of us eagerly headed for the river that spring morning—and not one of us had paid attention to the weather forecast, which called for thunderstorms and possible tornadoes.

After a successful first day, we set up camp on a gravel bar in an isolated section of the county. That night, the sky broke loose. High winds, hail, lightning, and heavy rain hammered us. We frantically moved our tents to higher ground as the normally tame Little Barren became a raging torrent.

The next morning, we decided to chance it and make an attempt to get back to civilization by water. The normal eight-hour trip downstream to the take-out point took less than two hours. Thank goodness no one tipped over in that treacherous water.

Okay, enough bad stuff. You’re ready to take to the water in your new canoe. First, I hope you’ve purchased the right canoe for the type of experience you’re seeking. There are canoes designed for three people, two, or one. There are canoes especially made for white water or calmer water.

If you’re a beginner, it’s a good idea to put the canoe in some calm water to practice paddling and keeping your balance before going on an excursion. If you’re alone, sit in the back of the boat. That’s the person who primarily steers.

I remember how tense I was and how tippy my canoe felt when I first started. If the canoe tipped one way, my instincts told me to lean the other. You’ll learn to lean with the boat when it slightly tips to one side. If it tips too far, though, you’re going in.

I don’t know a canoeist that hasn’t happened to. And when it happens to me, I’m glad to know I’ve put my snacks, drinks, and other gear in a waterproof bag. And I never forget my personal flotation device, or PFD.

Kentucky law requires that the canoe must carry one for each person who will be aboard.

But if you’re prepared, there’s hardly an outdoor experience that can rival a canoe trip on a beautiful day. Try it in the fall, when the leaves are bursting with color and the sky is turquoise blue. Take a lesson from me, though: check the weather forecast.


• Do your research to find the best canoe for you.

• Always have and preferably wear a personal flotation device.

• Carry a waterproof bag for water, snacks, and gear.

• Don’t forget the paddles.

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