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In Praise of Autumn Paddling

by Philip Werner
October 12, 2011

Autumn is the best season for canoeing and kayaking: there are no crowds, the bugs are gone, and the water is still warm. Whether you're floating down a peaceful river like the St. George River in Maine (see the video below), running whitewater rapids, or exploring a coastline, paddling gives you the ability to go places that you could never reach on land.

Leaf peeping is especially beautiful from the water. When I was first learning to paddle 10 years ago, I'd take my sea kayak to the upper Charles River outside of Boston and glide quietly through the river's wetlands, watching the geese and waterfowl congregate before their winter migrations south. Many mornings, the surface of the water would be as smooth as a glass, reflecting the showy red and bronze of maple and beech on the river's surface.

Later, when I'd caught the whitewater kayaking bug, my friends and I would travel in October and November to rivers up and down the east coast, from Maine to Pennsylvania. River and stream levels usually rise in autumn because trees drop their leaves and don't absorb as much water from the soil.

Despite the beauty of the changing leaves and the warmth of Indian summer, you still need to be safety conscious when you go paddling in fall. Wearing a wet suit, splash jacket, hat and paddling gloves can also help keep you more comfortable if you get wet or the temperature drops unexpectedly.

If you want to get out on the water but don't have other people to paddle with, there are a lot of outdoor clubs or meetup groups that hold regular excursions for all levels of ability that you can join. Summer may be over, but there's still a lot of good kayaking and canoeing left in the autumn months.

What about you? Do you have any special places for paddling in fall?