First of all, don't get me wrong about
what you are going to read. Lake boating is a great way to enjoy
outdoor recreation for those who like watersports and kicking back
with friends. Many lakes offer convenient facilities that cater to
boaters. I am writing to offer another alternative to boaters that is
Many people cross river bridges with
their boat in tow, heading for their favorite lake with no notion of
exploring the waterway that they are passing over. If the trip to the
lake is on a weekend they will likely encounter a crowded lake with
plenty of inconsiderate and often dangerous boaters. Tubing, skiing
and rafting with other boaters is certainly fun and that is all many
people are interested in but there are those of us who view boating a
little different. We consider our boat to be a mode of transportation
that can take us to wonderful destinations throughout the country,
but we actually care more about the journey than the destination.
With the exception of passing through
the bigger cities, our rivers are the most natural of resources that
we have access to. One can travel for many miles on most rivers and
see the same things that river travelers did 200 years ago. Some
rivers have lakes within their length, like the Tennessee River, but most boaters on these lakes go no
farther than the dams that form the lake. Even when there is a lock, many people are apprehensive about
locking through. Locking is actually quite easy and those boaters are missing out on some great river
experiences beyond the dams.
Those with large boats that are not
easily trailered have fewer opportunities to explore rivers when they are on a confined lake but trailerable
boats have few limitations and larger boats already on a river system
can go great distances as well. Some people think that traveling on a
river requires having a large cruiser but a small boat is just as
suitable and in some ways are an advantage. There are always
shorelines or islands to make camp and smaller craft can more easily
access shallow coves and tributaries for anchoring or to tie off for
the night. Fuel savings with smaller boats is another advantage.
Why not put a boat in and actually go
some place? While traveling on a river, one will never see the same
shoreline and even when going back on the same river, it will seem
different. The United States has 25,000 miles of navigable waterways
to explore plus many other rivers that can be traveled in small
craft. Many people don't realize that a boat could be put in at
Pittsburgh and travel all the way to South Dakota or go from
Minneapolis to Florida.
Taking a trip on a river does not require a yacht or fancy cruiser. Those boats are nice and do have creature comforts to enjoy and for those fortunate enough to have one, I encourage you to use it for what it was built for...long journeys rather than dockside gatherings. For those of us who get most of our enjoyment from the river itself, those comforts are secondary. Long river trips can be taken in a canoe, raft, jonboat, pontoon boat, ski boat, or just about anything that safely floats and has a reliable source of power. That source could be strong arms and paddles. When I travel the rivers, I pay little attention to the big cruisers that pass by. What gets my attention and admiration are vessels like the one in the photo at right. Those folks are having a real river adventure and that boat is their pride and joy, with everything that they need to make them happy and enjoy the river.
River boating is not for everyone.
Rivers are different than lakes and piloting a boat on them requires due vigilance, responsible boating and
good planning. Party boating is fine in a cove or a lake but there is no place for it while underway on a
river. This writing will not go into all that one should know about safe river boating, but there are
plenty of sources for that information, including this website. The reward for this knowledge is great. You will become a boatman (non gender) rather than a boater. For those of you who are seeking more
than going in circles on a crowded lake I invite your to join those
of us who have discovered the natural remote beauty and practically
endless destinations that can be found on our rivers. While traveling
on a river you will constantly be looking forward to what there is to
see around the next bend. Be adventurous, explore and enjoy the rivers, be safe and
leave no trace that you were there.
Launching and retrieving a boat in the
river may be different than at a lake ramp. The river current is the
difference and should be considered. Most river boat ramps are built
and an angle along the shore in the same direction as the river
current. The reason for this is that you have more steering control
while headed upstream, which is helpful when putting the boat back on
the trailer. If there is not a great deal of downstream angle to the
ramp, and there is adequate width, if is often helpful to back the
empty trailer at a slight downriver angle to take avoid having the
current push the stern of the boat sideways when trying to guide it
onto the trailer.
It is easy to see that long boat trips
are possible on the rivers, but two or three day trips are great to.
Even on a day trip, one can see a lot of river, depending on the
cruising speed of the boat. I suggest that the first time you try
river boating, do a day trip, then maybe a weekend trip. You will
become more experienced and be longing for extended trips on the
river. For those with fast boats, I suggest that you plan a
reasonable cruising speed so that you can really enjoy the river and
save fuel. Those who speed down a river at 50mph are not going to
really get to know the river and enjoy the natural beauty.
One subject that is not covered in
river travel websites will be addressed here. You have selected a
river and chosen what section of river to explore. You have the dates
set and look forward to the journey. The question that comes up is what to do
with your tow vehicle and trailer. There are places where it would
not be wise to leave your vehicle and trailer for an extended time.
Following are some suggestions:
The best plan is to have someone
drop you off and take the vehicle home, then pick you up when you
return or when you reach a destination (not a round trip).
State Parks are usually good
places to leave a vehicle since they are patrolled and are not the
kind of place that vandals and thieves often visit.
Marinas with a ramp and parking
are safe as they are usually busy with traffic and most of them will
keep an eye on your vehicle (some will charge for parking and ramp
Do not leave a vehicle and trailer
overnight at a ramp in a remote location, away from highways,
buildings or parks. You may come back to find them stolen or
If using a public ramp, pick one
that is close to a busy road and park the vehicle close to the road
to reduce the chance of it being targeted.
If the location is far from home
and you would feel more comfortable having someone watch your
vehicle, it may be worth it to pay someone from the area to take it
home and bring it to you when you return or reach your destination.
I usually call the local fire department and ask them if they know
anyone who would do this. I always get someone reliable through this
Put a locking device on your
trailer hitch and the trailer spare tire.
It is sad that these steps are
necessary to insure that our property is safe from criminals but they
are out there and they are not river people. Of course these
precautions apply to those using lakes as well but more opportunities
for overnight travel on rivers makes listing these suggestions more
Video of interview with Ray Macke who
has traveled over 27,000 river miles in his home-made boat.