Posted by: Andy Whitcomb
July 24, 2012

Andy Whitcomb

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Recently, my family canoed several miles of the Clarion River in Western Pennsylvania. A few hours of  summer canoe rental is a good opportunity to test drive a water craft to determine if purchased, whether it will be used on the water or as a drink cooling conversation piece.

Though the river was bustling with a big weekend crowd, we enjoyed our paddle and quickly learned some quirks not only of canoe maneuvering, but of our family communication skills as well. The person at the front has the better view to avoid canoe bottom contact with rocks through low-water conditions. Yet, the majority of the steering falls to the person at the back, so it is important to be on the same page and communicate quickly and effectively.

“Your OTHER left!”

Intriguing as it may be, canoeing a river is more complicated logistically than canoeing a lake. Two vehicles and a predetermined termination point are necessary to prevent turning a relaxing float trip into some brutal exercise regimen.

Registration of “powerless” watercraft varies from state to state.  Even though the river was crowed and low, the quiet canoe allowed us to rapidly scout potential fishing areas for our return, where part of the family has expressed interest in test driving the more leisurely, always-wet backside sensation of tubing.

We got wet but only by choice, stopping a few times to splash around and catch crayfish. And although it was only our first trip, we learned enough to know that our canoe won’t get a chance to be a drink cooler.

Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad living in Oklahoma. Visit him at

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