Outdoor Living

Let’s get paddling!

by Dr. Carla Gull 

We’re fortunate to have a pond in front of our house. As friends come to visit, we often take the canoes for a spin around the pond.

To get started, consider the following tips.

  • Start small. A pond or small lake with calm waters can be a great place to practice. Also, consider going for a shorter period with children the first few times paddling.
  • Teach a few basics, such as how to properly hold the canoe paddle, demonstrating how to pull the paddle back through the water while on land and coach as they get into the water. Practice capsizing a boat as well and what to do if they have issues.
  • Consider seating. The front paddler usually does more paddling, while the person in the back steers the canoe.
  • Always wear a life jacket that fits properly. We often find them at garage sales near lakes.
  • Get a canoe. We watch online garage sale sites for inexpensive options. You can rent a canoe at Fiddler Pond in Goshen. You can rent along the St. Joseph River, Fawn River, or Pigeon River. The upcoming Olde Mill Park and Trail has plans for a canoe launch. Public access boat launches at Stone Lake and other areas can also be convenient. If moving a boat from one body of water to another, be sure to leave all water behind and pressure wash or keep the boat out of the water for three weeks to prevent the spread of invasive zebra mussels.
  • Work your way up to longer trips, stopping at various places along the way. Chain O’Lakes State Parks is great for this!
  • Enjoy! We like going along the sides of the lake or pond, finding a nest or bird in a tree. We happened along a small island on the St. Joseph River and found freshly chiseled wood from beavers. Canoeing as the fall leaves change colors is also spectacular.
  • Meet with other paddlers. Check out Paddle Michiana on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/paddlemichiana/.

Canoeing can be a great way to get out on the water. I like the slower pace that gives us time to enjoy nature along the way, counting the turtles, hearing the plop of frogs nearby, and watching a green heron protect its nest.

Dr. Carla Gull blogs at www.insideoutsidemichiana.com. She is often seen with her four tag-along explorers in the greater Michiana area.