How-to Crush Your Canoe Around a Boulder! and How-to Prevent it.

How-to Crush Your Canoe Around a Boulder! and How-to Prevent it.


It’s day one on our trip down the Pukaskwa River in northern Ontario when my bow paddler Will and I decide to run a steep and narrow class 2 rapid. We’d scouted the large pointy boulder in the middle of the rapid and made plans to avoid it….those plans didn’t work out so well. Oh, and the dog was 100% A-okay.

Here’s how we could have prevented it: 

Do something! – In the face of danger, nine times our of ten, any stroke is better than no stroke. You see in the video how both of use freeze in the moments before we make contact with the boulder. This did not help us.

Consider wading – When faced with running a steep, boulder-strewn rapid in a loaded, tandem tripping boat, consider wading down the side of the rapid. Most class 2’s are very run-able, but ones this steep can cause problems. (watch video for proof).

Change your plans – To avoid the boulder, we planned to keep our stern pointed towards river left and back paddle down the rapid, effectively keeping us left of the boulder, (or so we thought). When our back-ferrying plan wasn’t working, and we started slipping towards the boulder, the bow paddler should have done a strong draw stroke to pull to our bow to our left. Instead, we stuck to our original plan of back paddling, bad idea.

Have a plan B – When running whitewater, make sure you know how to unpin a canoe. And make sure you have the equipment to do so. Strong rope and three climbing pulleys should do it.  Luckily, in this case, we were able to un-pin the boat. Although, we needed to make some serious repairs to the spray-deck, yoke, and stern seat.

My brother Ted gave me extra warning about the boulder before we made the run. He’d made it down before hand and then pulled out the video camera for this shot. Ted apologizes for the S-bombs.