The kids are back in school and fall is right around the corner, but there is still time to get outside and have an adventure with the family while the weather is still nice.  Canoeing can be a great way to relax, exercise and appreciate your natural surroundings. The Westerville Parks and Recreation Department even offers canoe training and trips (To join in on the fun, check out of programs in the Fall Recreation Guide)

But before you take off down the river, there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure your next canoeing experience is both fun and safe.

Our Westerville Parks and Recreation Naturalist, MJ, took members from the Westerville Senior Center on a canoeing trip recently on Alum Creek.  Here are her tips for success before you even get in the water:

  • Have a plan and let someone know which two points you are paddling between, including what time you expect to be back.
  • Bring a dry bag to put valuables in. Make sure to pack water, an energy snack and sunscreen.
  • Wear layers (avoid cotton) and closed-toe shoes.There could be fishing hooks in the water and it can be easy to slip on shore in sandals.
  • Life jackets might look weird and feel strange, but you will be thankful you have it. Your life jacket should fit snuggly. If you can pull the straps of your life jacket up above your ears it is not tight enough.


  • It is requirement to wear a helmet while canoeing during a Parks and Recreation program. A canoeing helmet should fit like a bike helmet, not falling into your eyes or too tight that is it uncomfortable.

Canoe Helmet

  • Choosing the correct paddle length is important. Place the tip of your paddle on the ground: the T-grip or handle should reach no higher than your chin and no lower than your collar bone.
  • Don’t forget to stretch before and after. You can paddle for much longer when using your core rather than your shoulder muscles.
  • Good form is key. Hands should be shoulder distance apart on the paddle. Your dominant hand should be holding the t-grip while the other hand is on the throat of the paddle. When paddling, make sure your dominant arm does not go above eye level to avoid injury and increase efficiency.

canoeing form pic for blog

  • When getting into a canoe, maintain three points of contact between the canoe and the ground at all times.

3 points of contact

  • Once you are safely in the canoe, always head upstream first. This way if you get tired, the current will help you get back.
  • Now go have fun!

go have fun!

For more tips on canoeing, follow the highlighted link to visit the American Canoe Association website.