Etiquette for Portage

Etiquette for Portage
No matter how you slice it, portaging hurts -- but it's a necessary fact of paddling in many lake and river systems. You can help reduce the pain of portaging by following basic etiquette and educating your friends and paddling partners so that they do the same. Above all, remember to smile -- anyone you meet on the trail is out to enjoy the great outdoors, just like you are.


Scouting the portage route ahead of time is always a good idea, but make sure to pull your canoe to the side of the portage trailhead before doing so. This leaves room for other paddlers to pull up as well. Likewise, if you're doing the trip-and-a-half, which involves leaving the canoe and/or packs at the halfway point of the portage for a short time -- or even if you're just stopping to rest -- make sure you've placed the canoe and pack as far off to the side of the trail as possible so they will not obstruct others in their portage attempt.

Right of Way

You yourself can also become an obstacle if you aren't careful; anyone carrying a canoe automatically has the right of way, so if you're carrying a pack, paddles or nothing at all, make sure to get out of the way. If you find that you're slower than others and holding them up, step off the trail to let them go by.

Trash and Gear

Keep all your gear securely contained in canoe packs or sturdy bags; this helps to keep it from being lost or mistaken as trash. Always double check the take-out for any gear or bits of trash you may have left behind before starting your last trip; do the same at the put-in after repacking the canoe. Contribute to keeping the portage trail clear by picking up trash left by other paddlers. If you find lost gear, leave it at either the take-out or put-in in plain view.


Make sure that if you've got a paddling partner, you're pulling your fair share of the portage load. Even if you're not able to help carry the canoe, you can contribute in other ways: Make an extra trip or part of an extra trip with a pack, scout the portage trail, or unpack and repack the canoe.

Article Written By Marie Mulrooney

Marie Mulrooney has written professionally since 2001. Her diverse background includes numerous outdoor pursuits, personal training and linguistics. She studied mathematics and contributes regularly to various online publications. Mulrooney's print publication credits include national magazines, poetry awards and long-lived columns about local outdoor adventures.

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