How Far Can You Paddle in A Day?
A question we are asked frequently as Boundary Waters Canoe Area outfitters is, "How far can we paddle in a day?" Unfortunately this question is not an easy one to answer. Unfortunately there are many variables that factor into how far and how fast one can travel by canoe during a day. Among these factors are type of canoe, experience of paddlers, amount of gear/weight, how the canoe is loaded, weather conditions, wind, waves and type of water you’re paddling. There are rivers with fast currents, lakes with no current and portages to consider as well.
The average paddlers travel about three miles per hour in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. This isn’t paddling at a race pace or running across wilderness portages but it is a normal leisurely pace for the BWCA. When you’re on a canoe camping trip you may find yourself not paddling continuously because you want to take a swim break, cast a line or stop to take pictures of the BWCA wildlife. All of these things take time as does setting up and breaking down camp.
If you don’t want to be setting up or breaking down camp in the dark then you’ll need to keep in mind how many hours of daylight you have. In the middle of the summer when there are 16 hours of daylight in the canoe country wilderness a person can cover quite a few miles in a day. But in the early spring or fall the same Boundary Waters canoe route may take more days. You’ll need to know how many hours and days of travel you want to do in order to determine how far you want to go.
A 50 mile Boundary Waters canoe trip could look quite different depending upon who is paddling it. One group of people may paddle 5 hours every day for 10 days, 10 hours each day for 5 days or 20 on Day 1, rest on Day 2 and Day 3, paddle 10 on Day 4, Day 5 and Day 6. It really just depends upon what the group wants to do. It’s best to determine this before you’re out in the wilderness.
When you’re planning your next Boundary Waters canoe trip be sure to consider all of the variables in determining how far you cn paddle in a day.