How to Portage a Canoe

How to Portage a Canoe
So you've paddled your canoe across 3 miles of wind-swept lake, and now you've got to go over land to get it to the next lake, hopefully finding some solace from the wind and the crowds. Here's what to do once you reach that portage you've worked so hard to get to.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Canoe
  • Paddles
  • Yoke pads
Step 1
Pull your canoe up and place it. Most portages have stands set up at the pull-out area where you can lean your canoe to make it easier to get underneath it. Pull your canoe out of the water. Turn the canoe over so that it's belly up. With a friend on one side and you on the other, slide the canoe over to the stand and lift it up until the nose of the canoe is resting on the stand.
Step 2
Affix your paddles. Paddles can actually help with portaging, and if you can put them inside the canoe it's one less thing to carry. Position the paddles so that they run under the middle support beam, criss-cross about halfway to the front seat and then hook under the front seat. You may have to play around with them a little bit. The trick is to position them so that they fit snugly and can be used to hold onto.
Step 3
Position yourself under the canoe. You should go under the high side of the canoe and slowly walk backward until your shoulders encounter the yoke pads. If the canoe is positioned properly, you'll have to bend your knees in order to get your shoulders under the pads. You can portage without yoke pads but it'll really hurt your shoulders.
Step 4
Lift up the back of the canoe and step away from the stand. Do this very slowly, by standing up full, shoulders pushing up on the yoke pads, hands grasping the gunwall in front of you. You only need to step back far enough so that the tip of the canoe clears the stand.
Step 5
Balance the weight. Once you've cleared the stand, the front of the canoe should slowly fall and the entire canoe will level off. If you are in the wrong position on the canoe, the load may pitch forward, so go slowly. Canoes are not as light as you might think, and you could seriously injure yourself if you're not careful.
Step 6
Start walking. If you can keep the tilt toward the rear of the canoe, you'll have better visibility of the trail ahead and less chance of tripping on a rock or tree root. Once you get to the other side, simply reverse the process.

Tips & Warnings

Before you take off on a portage, check the rods (distance) so you'll have some idea of how far you have to go.
Some portages (longer ones) have canoe stands along the way. Make use of them to give yourself a rest.

Article Written By Patrick Cameron

Patrick Cameron is a freelance writer with 10 years of diverse experience in consumer goods branding, promotions and retail communications. He works out of his home in Denver, Colo. He received his Bachelor of Arts in mass communication from the University of Minnesota.

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