St John's Newfoundland Sports & Recreation: Canoeing, Kayaking and Rafting information, listings and links
Background of the Sport
These are the human-powered versions of water sports. Kayaking is popular on both whitewater and lakes, and in coastal areas, sea kayaking is popular. Canoeing is popular on lakes, rivers, even on whitewater. Whitewater slalom kayaking and canoeing have been Olympic sports for several years. Rafting is usually reserved for fast-flowing rivers and whitewater experiences, where the raft provides an extra measure of safety and control, expecially for beginning watersport enthusiasts.
With a kayak, uou move using a double-bladed paddle. You reach forward with each blade and pull, twist your torso to reach and pull with the opposite blade, to balance the forces and keep your kayak moving forward. Kayaking is an excellent sport for building leg, abdominal, chest and back muscles. Rookies need to learn to moves: the "eskimo roll" to right the craft when you are inverted and submerged, and a "wet exit" to get out of the skirt while inverted.
Canoeing has evolved from the main means of transportation for Indians and early explorers and fur traders. Canoeing is a low-noise way to explore the area's beautiful and rugged geography, letting you get surprisingly close to wildlife on land, water or in the air. Canoeing is a great form of exercise, whether canoeing on a lake or canoeing downstream.
Your propel a canoe in the sitting position, either sitting on the seats, or kneeling and resting your buttocks against it (lower centre of gravity and lower wind profile). You hold the paddle with two hands, one at the end of the handle, the other gripping the shaft just above the blade, and pulling toward you. The person at the front of the boat sets the pace (it works best when every body paddles in unison), while the person at the back does the steering, by paddling with a "J" stroke.
Kayaking has evolved dramatically from the sealskin-covered shells that Eskimos used for hunting seals in the Arctic. Kayaks today are durable and lightweight fibreglass or plastic shells with built-in flotation, and provide a waterproof spray skirt to keep you and your pack dry during in a roll-over. Whitewater kayaks tend to shorter, and can turn on a dime. Sea kayaks and longer, with a sleek v-shaped body for stability in rough seas. You sit in a moulded seat, and your feet sit on footrests (which control the rudder, to help with steering). Most kayaks have two bulkheads fore and aft for storage, and have deck lines and bungee cords to keep key items handy. Things like a spare paddle, map, munchies, water bottle, and camera. Kayaks can cost $3000, with paddles costing $50 to $200 (you should always carry a spare). You will also need to wear a lifejacket, which are required by law.
Canoes come in a number of materials: aluminium, cedar-strip, fiberglas and even Kevlar, all with different benefits and a range of costs. There are many places you can rent canoes and other equipment, especially around the popular canoeing areas, which is handy when you do not canoe often. Canoes all have built in flotation, so in case of a capsize, stay with the canoe.
When rafting or kayaking, you will need a bathing suit, shorts, T-shirt, and a Polar fleece, acrylic or wool top (warm when wet), a wind-proof rain jacket and pants, running shoes and wool socks, sun screen, a brimmed hat and sunglasses (with retainer or string), and a complete change of clothes for end of the trip (in a waterproof plastic bag). If you are paddling on open water, dress colourfully so large boats can see you. For overnight trips, you'll need a sleeping bag and tent, and a warm jacket.
Here are some good canoeing and kayaking rivers close to St John's:
Whitebourne off Hwy 81
Only worth while in high water since the river lives up to its name at any other time. The river meanders through wilderness without being too far from civilization.
Terra Nova National Park, off the Trans Canada Hwy
There is sea canoeing for those with the skills with to do it. Route Length:10km
Terra Nova National Park Hwy 1 access on the eastern shore
Off hwy 1 at Sandy Pond a few short hops will take you to Dunphy's Pond and a choice of designated campsites. This 20 km return trip is a good introduction to canoe camping. Around 4 to 5 hours each way.
Hwy 1 to 360 south
The river is broken up by Gander Lake with the upper section runnable only during high water. There are a few rapids and technical areas in the upper river.
Highway 10 south
A steepish bedrock run with tough looking rapids flowing through the middle of Bay Bulls. 7 km trip.
Route 40 to Bell Island Ferry Term
During Spring flood, a great little set of cascades down into the harbour where the ferry for Bell Island docks.