Canadian Canoe Routes

beginning of modern technique?
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Author:  pknoerr [ February 22nd, 2008, 2:39 pm ]
Post subject: 

I have never really considered historical paddlers (from antiquity to the early portion of the 20th paddling rapids quickly. Seems that most paintings from those days... including the Francis Anne Hopkins paintings from the 1800s all appear to show the paddlers dropping throught rapids instead of running them in an aggressive manner. I wonder if these accounts have anything to do with the degree of whitewater that were run vs. what was portaged. For example I'd see little issue running most Class IIs in a wood canvas or even a birchbark at a rate faster than the current. Because the risks are generally small compared with the reward of not having to port, and it's more fun. But once the rapids get bigger, then issues like swamping come into play and I'd suspect those Class IIIs that were run were run slower than the current just to keep the water out of the boat so it could cause further problems downstream.

I had meant to comment on Bill Mason. Bill was truly a talented canoeist. But I view his mark as less of a visionary canoeist, and more of a talented spokesman for canoeing. I'm sure there were many more talented paddlers in Canada, but Bill brought canoeing to the masses, and illustrated that everyone could do it if they had the notion. His impact was much greater in his ability to get already known techniques out there, than him stretching the boundaries of canoe technique.

Anyways, this is a pretty interesting conversation... and I'm surprised that we haven't heard from some of those other paddlers that were canoeing back in the 50s and 60s. There must be a few out there?


Author:  Been Digging [ February 22nd, 2008, 6:51 pm ]
Post subject: 

Calvin Rutstrum in "North American Canoe Country" states "The early way of running rapids was to get the canoe going faster than the flow of the current, to be able to steer with the paddle as a rudder, and to make more effective additional steerage with a quarter-sweep of the paddle." What he considers a better technique is using the sculling draw to move the canoe laterally.

Bill Mason in "Path of the Paddle" has a section called "Dangers of running rapids under power". He states "Years ago, when I first began to run rapids, I had no one to teach me how, and I was not aware of any good books on the subject apart from references to running rapids in books about the voyageurs. I instinctively developed a technique of backpaddling down the rapids to give me time to make the necessary corrections in course.....It wasn't until many years later that books appearing on the market began describing the art of running rapids with a heavy backwater. I realized then that what they referred to as back ferrying was what I was doing."

I know ferrying is used in poling in rapids. I assume this has been done for a long time. It seems like someone would have figured out the same thing can be done with a paddle.

Author:  D Burgess [ February 22nd, 2008, 9:18 pm ]
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Thanks Been Digging. I don't have access to that book of Rustrum's. I wonder what the books were that Bill Mason mentions in the quote you gave.

I just had a look at Rustrum's book "The New Way of the Wilderness", published in 1958. He writes:

"The common practice over the years has been to run the rapids at as high speed as possible in order to gain steerage on the turns. In recent years I have found that a powerful sculling draw stroke could maneuver a canoe in rapids with much less hazard than by the old steerage method. ... This sculling draw enables you to maneuver a slowed-down canoe and thus avoid the heavier impact when an unforeseen rock lurks beneath the surface."

The book "God's River Country", published in the same year, does not mention this method so I suppose that it was new at that time.

My copy of Bill Mason's "Path of the Paddle" video gives a date of 1977, by which time the new method is clearly mature.

The book by Robert Pinkerton that I linked to earlier was published in 1914, so we know that the steerage method was in use then. I wonder if we can find earlier accounts.

Author:  Guest [ February 23rd, 2008, 7:01 am ]
Post subject:  assumptions

Paul, your analysis is right, I think.
Also I think that much of this kind of discussions is based on the assumption that (forward) speed is necessary in rapids for maneuvering. And while for some kind of moves or maneuvers it is, forward speed is not needed or even wanted for other kind of maneuvers. It all depends.
Once I had a discussion with a 'whitewater' paddler about how back ferrying worked, and showed that way of cleanly negotiating a difficult bend in a river. Boring, was his reply...
This was more his kind of fun:

Author:  D Burgess [ February 23rd, 2008, 10:52 am ]
Post subject: 

Dirk, your friend's comment shows something I guess we should bear in mind. There are at least two kinds of paddling, with a fuzzy line between. That is, paddling for fun or sport, and travelling by canoe. What one might do playing in a rapid in an empty canoe, one would be nuts to try with a canoe loaded with all one's supplies on a remote river.

Also, in the past and sometimes now, canoeing was/is done to earn a living: freighting, prospecting, hunting, trapping, surveying etc. In that case, the rivermen would want to get through with everything intact using whatever methods they had at hand. Of course they did enjoy the excitement. Grey Owl makes that very clear.

It seems to me that the earlier style relied largely on the bowman using his paddle as a rudder. In that case, forward motion is required. I have read a few mentions of "throwing" the canoe, for example. That is, holding the paddle as if about to do a pry but angling it to get a rudder effect in either direction. I have tried a few of these maneuvers and have been impressed by the violence of the turn that results. The stories often mention the need for split-second decisions and reactions, as one would expect.

I wonder how far back we could trace these rudder strokes and whether they supplanted some other way of managing a canoe.

Author:  Guest [ February 23rd, 2008, 12:07 pm ]
Post subject:  stationary strokes

D Burgess wrote:
I wonder how far back we could trace these rudder strokes and whether they supplanted some other way of managing a canoe.

According to the writer Bill Riviere, when talking about 'the Duffek' in his book 'The Open Canoe' (page 192), C.E.S. Franks wrote in his book 'The Canoe and White Water: [...] "it is not strictly accurate to call this style 'modern', for many Indian bands in northern Canada had used the techniques of leans for centuries."

Also, I just cannot imagine that the use of stationery strokes like a bow rudder (which is part of the so-called Duffek technique) were unknown and not used long ago in history.
But I do not assume they were used for 'playboating' in heavy whitewater then...

Dirk Barends

Author:  pknoerr [ February 23rd, 2008, 12:55 pm ]
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See that's my thought also. Obviously canoeist have been traveling down rivers at speed for years. So bow stationary draws, and powered bow draws would have been used to negotiate twisty rivers. it doesn't seem that big a stretch to think that paddlers used them on any river until the waves got so big that the canoe might swamp. At this point, backpaddling made sense... slow yourself down enough that you drop over waves with the least splash. Obviously this works better on certain whitewater than others. So this likely determined what the limit of what was run in either bark or wood and canvas canoes while tripping. Obviously, there was a need in racing to run bigger water faster than the speed of water.... racers were looking for an advantage. So with more rocker, more durable boats, running bigger drops under power, adding spraydecks, and floatation, and ultimately enclosing "canoes" for competition allowed paddlers to paddle bigger and bigger water under speed.


Author:  D Burgess [ February 23rd, 2008, 5:32 pm ]
Post subject: 

I have poked about a bit more and made it to the library.

In the Path of the Paddle, Bill Mason mentions Calvin Rutstrum's "The Way of the Wilderness" as an early influence on his paddling.

Grace Nute wrote a book on the Voyageurs. I have arranged to get a copy later, but I have found an excerpt on the internet. She quotes a writer of the time as saying that, when running rapids, "everyone paddled as hard as they could". The excerpt does not mention paddle technique, though. It does record comments about amazing dexterity in rapids.

Author:  wotrock [ February 25th, 2008, 7:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: for the record

jedi jeffi wrote:
For the record this is me Oct. 1977 Oxtounge river Ont. ... 7541hqvZxS
and in case the link works
It may look like ego (maybe it is) but just to show you there are a lot of boaters out there that have a lot of 'T" shirts that can help you along your journey.
I forget who the photo guy was it was another just lucky someone take pics of fall colours, it is on canvas, just getting older just like me.

Is that you going over Ragged Falls?? You must have been crazy!! :evil: I'm surprised, but glad, that you are still with us. :clap:

Author:  jedi jeffi [ February 25th, 2008, 8:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Crazy??????

Rumor has that maybe I was...... :wink:
and some think I still am, going on trips inot the woods
I was just at that age (22).... strong like bull, smart like streetcar....
That is the drop by the bottom of the picnic area south side of 60 .
Back then there was a small group always looking for bragging rights of some sort. And when yur in that frame of mind you think you are immortal.
My butt :oops: knows otherwise now,
But I did have a lot of people teach me great river tech. to get to that level of confidence.
Sad to say that the those people if still alive are mostly in thier 70's now,
and hope to get a few out to the 50th. Aniversary of the Credit so they can swap some stories in the oral tradition of the Canadian past.
I will post specifics when I can confirm all the details.
Place I have booked, working on menu and a list of Paddlers past that are able to speak.

Author:  jedi jeffi [ February 28th, 2008, 12:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Here' some history......

In the following articles I recieved from the OVKC I paddled with them in my early days of ww boating.
Further down the article by Don Galbraith shows you where we really havn't gone over the years (same fight different people looking out for the interest of rec. paddlers) Don later moved to the Yukon (70's)and kept up his paddling.
He bought an old downriver boat off me so he could tour easier.
I got this from some OVKC'rs.
It's long, moderators if you want to delete pics and just go with link, it is okay. ... 600Q85.jpg[img]






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