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Open boats have been used for thousands of years by many different cultures, but it was native North American Indians who pioneered the craft as we recognise it today, making them from wooden ribs and bark and using them to navigate the vast river networks of the continent. When European settlers arrived, early explorers used canoes to chart their New World. Today they are often known as 'Canadian canoes'.

Often considered today a more sedate way to enjoy paddling, open canoes are traditionally much longer and broader than kayaks (15ft/3ft) with a fully open cockpit, and fit two or three people. The craft is propelled with single-bladed paddles from a kneeling position or from a slightly raised seat.

Open canoes are ideal craft to introduce people to water sports. They are more stable than kayaks and far less cramped. For this reason, and because carers can be in the same boat, they are also frequently used to open up the experience of canoeing to people with disabilities.

Although open canoeing is widely perceived to be about sedate touring, open canoes come in many shapes and sizes, from family-sized to one-person river-runners. With enough space to carry all the kit you might need on a trip of any distance, an open canoe could take you on an expedition on grades of water from the Algonquin Lakes to Alpine white water.

How to run/provide canoeing

There are 3 ways of running Canoeing in Scouting. These are:

  1. Scout-led activity - running canoeing yourself or using someone else in Scouting

  2. Externally-led activity - running canoeing using an external provider

  3. Activity for adult groups - running canoeing for a group entirely of adults

Useful links

The National Governing Body for canoeing is:

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