So I started this website on May 26, 2013. I’m going to use this site to help families find places to paddle with children. And I hope through comments or emails that other paddlers can help me find those child friendly places to paddle.
I started out whitewater canoeing in my twenties. I met Keith on the rocks at Carderock Recreation Area (I was rock climbing, he was staring up at the rocks in wet tennis shoes.) I asked him if he wanted a belay. He climbed the climb and we started a paddling friendship. He was interested in learning to rock climb and I was interested in learning to whitewater paddle.
Neither of us had any money, so we bartered lessons. We would alternate weekends, one day of the weekend he would teach me to whitewater canoe and the next weekend, I would teach him to rock climb. And so started my summer of learning to whitewater paddle. The problem with my paddling is that I was not a competent flat water paddler when I started to learn to be a whitewater paddler.
At the time the Canoe Cruisers Association, the National Park Service and Swain’s Lock Livery (now gone), had a program where they had paddling on Thursday nights for free. The Swain’s donated the canoes. The CCA members gave a little instruction on canoeing at the beginning of the evening and would help whomever needed help as they paddled the C&O Canal at Swain’s Lock. I think the first couple of times I went, I took a friend and we tandem canoed. Then I realized I really needed to get better at flat water paddling, so I waited until every other person got their boat and took a boat out by myself to practice the strokes which Keith was teaching me on whitewater. And I did this every Thursday night until the end of the season. Keith and other CCA members usually stayed late and had a little picnic after the paddle. And there I met other paddlers.
Practicing flat water paddling really improved my whitewater paddling. Keith didn’t have very good guest equipment, so I ended up buying my own life vest and paddle and since his boat was not outfitted with knee pads, I bought knee pads too. I found the paddlers to be really nice and liked them more as a group than climbers, so I gravitated toward paddling and away from climbing.
At the end of the summer season, I took the CCA Basic Whitewater Canoe class with my then boyfriend. Paddling with him was a disaster and I vowed never to get into a tandem canoe again, save for a couple friends whom I trusted their ability and paddled fine with. After the course, I bought a whitewater kayak, even though I had no idea how to paddle it.
I always liked to paddle a canoe a couple times a season. I either paddled with my friend Bert, or my (now) husband and I borrowed Bert’s canoe and canoed together. We bought our own tandem canoe after we were married.
So most of my time has been spent whitewater paddling. And now I am going to discover the joy of flat water paddling with a child.
I do know that making the paddle enjoyable is an absolute must for helping my kid enjoy paddling. He can’t really paddle right now, but he can enjoy playing in the water. And maybe he never wants to learn to paddle, but he can always sit in the center seat and have fun, watch for birds and turtles.
My ultimate paddling spot would be A-1 (flatwater to easy rapids), that has shallow places for kids to get out and play in the water. Here is how river rapids are rated. Finding a canoe spot with places to swim is what I’m really looking for. None of the lakes I have posted in my “places to paddle” allow swimming, so I will have to find rivers where we can canoe and kids can swim and play in the water.
There is so much to do with a child, so paddling will not be an every weekend sort of thing, but we got out 3 times last summer, I hope to get out at least twice that many times this summer.