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Nature’s Best By Elma Chapman - Cannoeing

The past two Wednesdays my husband and I have been able to share our love of the outdoors with the kids in the LCYC day camps. Each camp is one week long and features visits to several of the county parks and other venues and a day of canoeing on the Pigeon River from the Trading Post in Mongo. Many, if not most, of the kids had never been canoeing before, so the LCYC gurus wisely decided that two kids per adult was a good ratio. Finding that many willing adults for a weekday morning was a challenge, but we answered the call, along with several other volunteers.

We were scheduled for another Wednesday back in June, but thunderstorms made the trip too dangerous and heavy rains meant we couldn’t get under the bridge on 600 East. So we were hoping that we would have better weather this month, and we did. The first Wednesday was really hot, but we had the sun at our backs and being in the breeze made the temperatures tolerable. But the mosquitoes were something else! Even heavily doused with bug spray (which I usually avoid if at all possible!) we were feasted upon as we waited to get on the water and again when we landed at Nasby Dam. The second trip was 20o cooler and we took a more powerful bug spray—so of course, there were no mosquitoes at all.

If you’ve never canoed on the Pigeon River, you’re missing out. People who have never canoed tend to think that canoes are very tippy, but they really are quite stable on quiet water, which is all there is on the Pigeon. It’s not very deep, so in most places you can stand up, even if you were to tip over. Wearing your life jacket would enable you to move to a place where you could easily stand up, if you did happen to tip in a deep place. I am happy to report that not a single canoe went over during our two excursions, one with second to fourth graders and one with fifth through seventh graders. Each canoe had an adult steering in the rear.

I was eager to point out turtles and birds and fish and plants as we went along, but I had to curb my enthusiasm a bit. If you aren’t in the first canoe, your chances of seeing wildlife are severely cut, and we were firmly in the middle of the flotilla. Still we did see some herons, turtles, and cedar waxwings. The kids in my canoe on our second trip were mostly interested in going fast, passing other canoeists from our group, and taunting them as they went by. Even so, it’s a start to get kids interested in doing something outside, having fun without electronics, and seeing new things or seeing old things differently. They noticed the many clam shells on the bottom of the river and I was able to tell them that this is one sign of a healthy river. My husband canoed with two boys that were interested in learning how to paddle correctly, how to steer, and how to tell how deep the water was. They went slowly and even stopped to wade and explore for a while.

The Pigeon is a gentle river and the staff from the Trading Post do a good job of removing downed limbs to keep the river open. No portaging is necessary for the shortest trip, and on a longer trip, it’s still an easy carry over the portage path. The current will carry you along with little paddling required, and it doesn’t take long to get the hang of using the paddle as a rudder to keep you pointed in the direction you want to go. A bus takes you back up river at the end of your journey to where you left your vehicle. Very few houses are visible from the river and the banks look quite natural, since it’s all land belonging to the Pigeon River Fish and Wildlife Area. If you’re lucky you might see an otter or an eagle, and the chances of seeing an osprey or kingfisher are quite good.

Don’t let the summer go by without having some fun on the river, and sharing your time with a child makes the trip that much better!