Developments in Modern Canoe Construction.

Often seen as the dated and less sexy cousin of the kayak, canoes had been sadly left standing beside the dance floor when it came to modernising their designs.  I say had, because in recent years canoes have seen a resurgence in their use and importantly for paddlers, significant changes in their design and construction.  The timeless design and inherent versatility of canoes has always been the secret of their appeal to paddlers, now with improvements to ease of handling on and off the water that appeal should stretch to a much wider audience.

As one would expect the North American manufacturers have lead the way on embracing new technology in both selection of materials of construction and hull design software to improve the shape and performance of their craft.  The Australian market whilst initially slow to respond, due largely to smaller demand here, has now seen an increase in demand for high quality imported canoes which in turn has given local manufacturers confidence to embrace similar technology to that being used overseas.

As mentioned above, the focus of improvements to the humble canoe has been around improving handling the craft both on and off the water.  Manufacturers have sought to build boats that are light, stable, quick through the water and responsive to paddle strokes.  Whilst equally true for kayaks as it is for canoes, the higher demand for their double bladed cousins meant that more improvements have been seen in kayak than canoe offerings.

Whilst no means a comprehensive list, the following are some of the key developments in canoe design and construction over recent years.

Weight.

Its seems odd for us to hear in Australia, however in the US the market perception is that if you want a lightweight boat you get a canoe – kayaks are seen as the heavier craft.  Manufacturers in the US and Canada have spent a lot of money on research into materials and construction methods to reduce the weight of their craft whilst maintaining strength, durability and importantly stiffness.

To understand why, you have to look at the paddling culture in North America and in particular the notion of ‘portaging’ or carrying the canoe.  With large tracts of water separated by short overland trails or sections of rapids, paddlers find themselves unloading and carrying their canoes from one waterway to another.   Nobody wants to lug a heavy boat overland through wilderness trails, so demand grew for lighter more manageable canoes.

In the 1970’s materials with high strength to weight ratios like Carbon and Kevlar became commercially available to manufacturers of composite products.   Canoe manufacturers, traditionally using glass fibre to manufacture their hulls, now had access to materials that allowed them to manufacture strong, stiff and durable hulls with a significant reduction in weight.  Technology has continued to develop and now the composite industry has access to a range of materials from polypropylene and nylon based fabrics through to those made from drawn strands of Basalt rock!

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Reduced fabric weight combined with low density resins and vacuum bagging / resin infusion manufacturing techniques has seen a dramatic reduction in canoe weight over the years.  Great news for tired paddlers hefting their boat back on the roof of their car after a long day on the water.

 

Hull Design

Back in the days of the Canadian Voyageurs, transporting bundles of furs up fast flowing untamed rivers, large curved ends were important on their canoes to keep paddlers and cargo dry through rough fast-moving water.  These were purpose-built boats designed for the local waterways and refined over generations of indigenous paddlers to perform a specific task.  Whilst some paddlers still aspire to conquer the mighty rivers of northern Canada, most everyone else is paddling on very different waterways and require different attributes of their boats.

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The first composite canoes made were based largely upon the traditional canoe designs of days gone by with some changes made to accommodate the idiosyncrasies of the materials being used.  The traditional look often times did not translate well into the new material and a lot of early canoe designs were quite clunky looking beasts.

Aesthetics aside, the large ends required to keep a canoe dry when plunging into a trough in a set of wild rapids was a curse to paddlers moving across open wind swept waterways.  Keels with lots of rocker, designed for manoeuvrability on  moving water, were a chore to paddle on long straight stretches of water.  It was obvious changes needed to be made.

Designers began to experiment with straight bow and stern stems to increase waterline length and it’s resulting increased boat speed. They looked at the effect of more slender profiles on their craft to weigh up reduced drag verses reduced stability. Hull cross sections were developed to improve tracking without adversely affecting manoeuvrability. Most significant of these was the move away from a pronounced keel on canoes to use of shallow vee or shallow arched hulls.

The rise of computer aided drafting packages and analysis software for modelling the attributes of a boat hull in the water has allowed designers to model and revise new designs without the expense of actually making and testing numerous prototypes.

This means that now canoes are being designed to suit a paddlers needs, because as we all know, one size rarely fits all

Other Developments

As materials and hull shapes have developed over the years, fitout of canoes has also come a long way.

New materials and manufacturing techniques have allowed canoe builders to provide their customers with more comfortable and adjustable seating configurations and the ability to configure their canoes for a multitude of uses from sailing to fishing and other outdoor pursuits.

Gunwales and thwarts on modern canoes are selected to allow easy attachment of accessories and other personal touches (some people even fit motors to their canoes!). As most canoe owners will tell you, one of the great appeals of this craft is it’s versatility.

The future certainly looks bright for the faithful canoe. Even though it is one of the oldest designs of watercraft, modern processes and designs have ensured it is as practical and relevant today as it was in the distant past.

Stable predictable hulls and lightweight fittings mean that the humble canoe is a great choice for everyone from young families looking for a day on the water through to couples wanting to get away from it all or seeking a taste of adventure.

If you’re looking for a cost effective and versatile craft to get out on the water, a canoe is well worth looking at.  For more information about canoes and new developments in this space, give Dan from One Tree Canoe Company a call on 0424 00 1646 or check out www.onetreecanoe.com

Canoe Go Camping

Yes, I’ll admit it I love canoe puns, they never seem to get old for me.  Something else that doesn’t get old for me is camping out of a canoe.  The attraction very much lies in the simplicity of it.  Loading a bunch of gear into a canoe and getting on the water is easier than most people realize, here’s a list of reasons why I think that camping from a canoe is one of the most under rated experiences you can have with your family in the great outdoors.

The first reason is carrying capacity.  The misconception most people have about camping from a canoe is that you need a high-tech backpack and ultra-lightweight, space-age camping gear.  The perceived effort involved with this seems to stifle the urge to ‘just do it’ in a good many prospective canoe campers.

Unlike a kayak paddler or hiker, the canoe paddler is not obsessed with every kilogram going into their pack.  Most 2-person canoes have a carrying capacity in excess of 300 kilograms which means that even with 2 burly blokes paddling you still have room for 100kg of gear!  Gone is the worry of purchasing ultra-light tents and camp gear, or for that matter having to carry freeze dried foodstuffs.  The canoe camper has the capacity to carry ample provisions, camp chairs, standard tents and even a few cold beverages.

Which leads to the second reason, cost. Not having to purchase expensive light weight gear significantly reduces the cost of camp gear. Most people have a basic camp setup stored somewhere in their back room.  A canoe’s larger carrying capacity is usually more than adequate to carry the average setup, plus the cargo area in the centre of a canoe is like the tray of a Ute.  The only limit is your imagination!

In addition, canoes themselves are quite inexpensive when compared to other expedition watercraft.  An average canoe suitable for camping will cost between $1500 – $2000, compared to an equivalent kayak which range from $2,000 and upwards.  Note here I said suitable for camping.  A 10-foot SOT kayak is not really going to cut it for multiday camping trips.

Carrying a canoe is also a simple matter.  The best way to carry a canoe is upside down on standard roof bars, riding on its gunwales.  No need for expensive cradles or tie downs and able to have gear stowed up inside the hull if you’re short of space.

The third reason is simplicity.  That canoe design has remained largely unchanged for thousands of years is no big surprise.  The secret to their effectiveness lies in their simplicity of design.  An open top boat with enough beam to carry large loads and remain stable but with sleek enough lines to be powered easily by 1 or 2 paddlers (or more, if you consider the famous voyageur canoes of Canada).  What this delivers to modern day paddlers wanting to get away from it all is a craft that is easy to paddle, can carry heaps of gear, is easy to load and unload, and is robust and most importantly versatile.  What more could you want?

The last and perhaps most compelling reason is location. We are blessed in SE Queensland with a range of wonderful waterways with campgrounds located along their banks.  A few of my favourites are listed below.

Ngumbi Campsite on Wyaralong Dam.  Access to the campsite is via hiking, cycling, horseback riding or paddling.  The paddle trip is an easy 6km journey from the boat ramp near the dam wall with camping available either in the old homestead or surrounding grounds located on top of the ridge.  Great stop-off point if you’re doing a through paddle to Lilydale camp at the other end of the dam.

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Upper Brisbane River (Spillway to Kholo).  The navigable length of the upper Brisbane River is 56km with numerous campsites along the way (some by prior arrangement with landholders).  The river lends itself very nicely to down stream canoe journeys and there is even a local shuttle service available for shorter durations.

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Noosa Everglades.  Queensland National Parks have done an amazing job of preserving this pristine wilderness and converting it into one of the premier paddling destinations in the world.  Extensive camping sites are available from Fig Tree Point, at the start of the everglades, Harry’s Hut and through to the campsite 15, located some 40km upstream.  With the exception of Harry’s, all of these sites are hike in or paddle in only!

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Wivenhoe Dam.  Whilst different from the others in that access to the campground can be had from motorised vehicles, Wivenhoe has the potential to offer a great canoe camping experience.  Our suggested journey would be from Harmon Cove through to Captain Logan’s, camping the night there.  The second day’s journey would then be from Captain Logan’s across to Billies Bay.  Alternatively, the option could be to camp at the grounds at Captain Logan’s and do day trips from there.  Either is awesome!

Other notable mentions are Bribie Passage, Mary River and if you fancy venturing south of the border: the Clarence and Nymboida Rivers.

Just remember, the only thing more enjoyable than camping in a canoe is camping with a whole bunch of canoes.  So bring your friends!  If you require any more information about camping from canoes and destinations in SEQ, give Dan a call from One Tree Canoe Company on 0424 00 1646 or check out http://www.onetreecanoe.com .

Brisbane River Canoe Trail

There has been quite a lot of hype in recent times of the newly constructed Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, and with good reason.  This trail provides hikers, cyclists and horse riders the opportunity to explore the countryside of the Brisbane Valley on a purpose-built trail that is low impact and safe for non-motorised travel.

What a lot of people may not be aware about is that there is an alternate trail in the Brisbane Valley that offers some of the most spectacular scenery that SE Queensland has to offer.  And it’s completely free to use!

The Brisbane River Canoe Trail winds its way through the Brisbane Valley from the Spillway Common at the base of Wivenhoe Dam to Kholo Bridge crossing some 52km downstream.  Like its Rail Trail cousin, the Canoe Trail traverses farmland, forests, picturesque rural settings and country towns.  It offers a variety of conditions from long wide pools with very little flow, to challenging sections of Grade 1 rapids and old log jams to negotiate.

Most paddlers of reasonable proficiency will be able to travel the entire 52km length without concern provided good paddling practices are followed.  If you’re unsure, paddle with a group of more experienced paddlers the first time to get a feel for what to expect.

The river is suited to all styles of paddling craft from Stand-up Paddle Boards to Canoes and Kayaks.  As a general rule avoid craft in excess of 16 foot as some of the tighter sections will prove difficult to negotiate.

There are numerous launch sites along the river and they offer the opportunity to experience different sections as a shorter journey or gain access to the easy to paddle sections for novice paddlers.

The following is a brief guide to the various sections and the launch sites at each end.

Spillway to Lowood Bend (7km):

Access is from the carpark located near the spillway lookout.  The river is accessed via a track leading down a quite steep ramp and then a gravel track to the launch site.  It’s about 200m and highly recommended that a cart is used to carry your paddle craft.

This section of the river contains a number of small rapids at the beginning and log jam about half way along.  The log jam is well cleared now but still requires some care to negotiate.  The section ends at a series of easy grade 1 rapid at Lowood Bend.  They are easy to navigate and add a touch of fun to the end of the paddle.

A very scenic section of the river with a few interesting sections to keep you on your toes!  Next access / egress point is Lowood Bend.

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Lowood Bend to Twin Bridges (6km):

This section is ideal for novice paddlers

Access is either above or below the last set of rapids at Lowood Bend.  There is a bush track down to the river which can be accessed by a 2WD vehicle with reasonable clearance.  The point in points are not very large but quite easy to access.  It will be necessary to move cars away from access points once paddle craft have been unloaded.

This section of the river is stunning! It is a wide slow-moving pool which runs for approximately 6km down to Twin Bridges.  Lined on both sides by Bottlebrush and large Gums, it is not unusual to sea eagles, cormorants and kingfishers.  With a bit of luck, you may even spy a lungfish in this section.

Note: this section can also be done launching from Twin Bridges and doing a 12km return trip to Lowood Bend and back.

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Twin Bridges to Savages Crossing (5km):

The access at Twin Bridges is one of the better points on the river.  The gravelly bank beside the low bridge on Wivenhoe Pocket road is a popular local swimming spot and an easy launching point for paddling craft.  Parking is plentiful and relatively secure.

As stated above it is possible to launch from here and paddle upriver to Lowood with relative ease.  Paddling down river will take you under the high bridge on the Brisbane Valley way and around the back of Fernvale towards the over local swimming spot at Savages Crossing.

This section of river is categorised by small faster moving riffles and some deep pools.  It is a good spot for quiet early morning paddlers to spot a Platypus if they’re lucky.  The river does pick up pace at the end, so be sure to make your way to the bank as you approach the landing site

Savages Crossing to Burtons Bridge (12km):

The access at Savages is similar to Twin Bridges and easy to park and gain access to the water.

This is a very pretty section of the river and signs of human habitation are few and far between.  It does however contain some sections of high grade 1 rapids which must be negotiated with care.  Be aware of sweeping bends with fast moving water which can cause a boat to be swept into a bank or under a tree.

Burtons Bridge to Kholo Bridge (22km):

The access at Burtons Bridge is quite good with a rough track leading down to almost the waters edge.  What used to be a very pretty spot has become tainted with large amounts of rubbish being dumped and people squatting under the Bridge.  This is NOT a good spot to leave a car and I recommend seeking a drop off to do this section as break ins are on the rise.

The section of river from Burtons to Kholo is without a doubt the jewel of paddling in SEQ! It seems that something new lies around every corner as you paddle down the river.  It really is a mix of all the previous sections with challenging higher grade 1 rapids and large slow-moving pools.   You will likely see a variety of bird and fish life and with luck a shy Platypus!

This is a long section of the river and can take up to 6 hours to navigate.  Several of the small gravelly riffles may require boats to be walked through to avoid damage to the hulls on low water.  On high water care must be taken to avoid getting trapped under low hanging tree branches.

The reward is definitely worth the risk and this section of the river is a must-do for all keen river paddlers!

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Note: near to the egress point at Kholo is a large long pool on the left side of the river.  This is a dead end! Take the right fork of faster flowing water and follow it around to the Kholo bridge.

Egress from the river is at Kholo bridge.  This access point is relatively easy to get out of the water and cars can be brought close to the river’s edge.  It is a popular fishing spot so may be busy at times.

This is the last access and egress point on the upper Brisbane River.  It is not possible to paddle from here to Colleges Crossing due to the Mount Crosby Weir.

For more information about paddling the Upper Brisbane River or for hire of canoes please contact Dan from One Tree Canoe Company on 0424 00 1646.  Our factory is based on the section of river between Twin Bridges and Lowood and we offer pick up and drop off services locally.

There’s Something About Mary…

In the late 1800’s the Mary River, then called the Wide Bay River, was an important northern port and point of entry into the then colony of New South Wales. It’s fertile banks and consistent water supply grew a thriving dairy and cropping industry and fostered a gold rush in Gympie until the early 1900’s.

The Mary is unusual for a river in Queensland.  Unlike most everywhere else, the Mary flows in a northerly direction, from its head waters in the Conondale ranges to its mouth in the Sandy Straights near Maryborough.  It was the focal point of a bitter protest, that gained international attention in the 90’s, to prevent a Dam being built at Traveston Crossing and continues to be an important preservation zone for some of Australia’s most endangered turtle, fish and frog species.

The Mary Valley region, particularly the upper reach, has continued to grow and diversify over the years and has now become a major tourist destination in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.  The river itself is a major draw card for those who love the outdoors.  As it passes through the hills and gorges of Conondale and Kenilworth it provides stunning views of long deep pools surrounded by tree lined cliffs and sandy banks perfect for diving into for a swim.  It constantly changes from long slow-moving sections to fast moving narrow twisty runs, that will provide a bit of excitement for paddlers travelling down the river.  You never know what you will find around the next bend!

And that’s why the Mary River is one of my favourite paddling destinations.  What the Mary offers better than most other locations in Queensland is a trail.  A trail offers a challenge and some excitement on a paddling journey.  A trail gives a traveller a sense of purpose, a one-way journey through new country with new things to experience around each bend in the river.  It’s this sense of anticipation that make down river trips so exciting.  The opportunity to spend 2 or 3 days on the river, paddling downstream and camping on the river bank at night.  It’s like a Mark Twain book come to life!

Gympie Regional Council have recognised the potential of water based trails and commissioned a study in 2015 to investigate the potential of establishing water trails on the Mary River and its tributaries.  In their study they have identified a range of water trails in the region to suit paddler capabilities from novice to advanced over distances ranging from 2km to almost 150km.

The plan outlines a series of project stages to introduce regular river access points along with the necessary infrastructure at each, including all weather roads, picnic shelters and launching ramps.  To date council have installed 6 new launch sites in the region with 3 on the Mary River along the town reach section of Gympie and a further 3 in the townships of Imbil and Kadanga.  Plans are also well underway to have improved access points installed at Moy Pocket and Walker Road bridges opening up one of the most scenic and ecologically diverse sections of the river.

With increased access to the river comes increased risk of damage being done to the delicate ecosystem.  I asked the Gympie Council what we as users could do to ensure the long-term sustainability of this project.  Their answer was a timely reminder of the responsibility we all have to protecting our natural environment.

“Our waterways are unique, diverse and incredibly ecologically significant, and we want others to love them as much as we do. It will be very important for users to take an active role in caring for the environment they are paddling in, including taking rubbish with them, staying in the river, protecting our native species and their habitat and being safe.”

Whilst many of the proposed water trails may take some time to be formalised, the good news is that most of the stretches of river nominated are already able to be paddled on in an ad-hoc basis.  Here are a few of my personal recommendations for great day paddles onthe southern section of the Mary River.

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Moy Pocket to Walker Road (11.5km): This section of the Mary River is stunning! Clear, deep pools over looked by sandstone cliffs with native timber interspersed with twisty quick flowing gravelly runs.  A short and reasonable challenging section of the river that should present no problems to paddlers with a bit of experience.  Walkers Road Bridge is not a great access point and has limited parking, it may be ok to leave a car for a shuttle back to departure point.  Return trips on this section are not advisable.  Another option is to carry on to Vic Olsen Bridge.

Walker Road to Vic Olsen Bridge (15.4km):  Similar to Moy Pocket section, this is slightly longer and with similar conditions.  Allow adequate time to portage canoes and kayaks through the gravelly shallow sections on low water.  As mentioned above, Walker Road is not a great spot to park multiple cars, arrangements should be made to car shuttle.  Return trips on this section are not advisable.  Another stunning section of the river!

Vic Olsen Bridge to Traveston Crossing (22.2km): A longer section but somewhat easier as sections between shallows are tending to be longer and deeper.  Will suit experienced paddlers as 22km is a long way to paddle in a day.  Access points at Vic Olsen and Traveston are good and have been established, if informally, for quite some time.  As with the upstream sections of the river, allow time to portage canoes and kayaks through shallow sections at times of low water.

Traveston Crossing to Carlson Road and Return (14.6km): An easy section of the river to paddle without having to organise a car shuttle.  Traveston Crossing is a good place to leave a car and the access to the water is easy.  The river is wider in this section and as a consequence the current is not too strong for the return journey. Still a pretty section of the river with opportunities to see lungfish and turtles as you paddle along.

The Mary is a seasonal river and as such river levels should be checked prior to departing on any section.  Low water will mean a lot of carrying or dragging boats through shallow sections, which are often frustratingly, just too shallow to paddle through.

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The reward however is great! There are few rivers in Queensland that provide the opportunity for an extended trip through such pristine countryside.  The Mary offers an abundance of wildlife in and around the river that can’t be seen in many other places, and there is still an untamed element to the upper reaches that will excite the adventure buffs.

So, don’t delay! Grab a canoe, kayak or SUP board and get out onto the Mary River today. Because there really is something about Mary..

For further information on the Mary River and the Canoe and Kayak trails you can contact the Gympie Regional Council website www.gympie.qld.gov.au or call Natureline’s Showroom team for advice on this and other destinations on 0424 00 1646.