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The Way of the Canoe | Sigurd F. Olson

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

The canoe gives a sense of unbounded range and freedom, unlimited movement and exploration. It is as free as the wind itself, can go wherever fancy dictates.

Excerpts from "The Way of the Canoe", Wilderness Days, by Sigurd F. Olson

"The canoeman can camp each night in a different place, explore out-of-the-way streams and their sources, find hidden corners where no one has ever been."


"Wherever there are waterways there are connecting trails between them, portages used by primitive man for countless centuries before their discovery by white men. Although overgrown and sometimes hard to find, they are always there, and when you pack your outfit across them you are one of the many who have passed before. When you camp on ancient campsites, those voyageurs of the past camp with you."

"The feeling of belonging to that tradition is one of the reasons canoemen love the sound of the paddle and the feel of it as it moves through the water."


"A man feels at home with a paddle in his hand, as natural and indigenous as with a bow or spear. When he swings through a stroke and the canoe moves forward, he sets in motion long-forgotten reflexes, stirs up ancient sensations deep within his subconscious."

"When he has traveled for many days and is far from the settlements of his kind, when he looks over his cruising outfit and knows it is all he owns, that he can travel with it to new country as he wills, he feels at last that he is down to the real business of living, that he has shed much that was unimportant and is in and old, polished groove of experience. Life for some strange reason has suddenly become simple and complete - his wants are few, his confusion and uncertainty gone, his happiness and contentment deep."

"There is magic in the feel of a paddle and the movement of a canoe, a magic of distance, adventure, solitude, and peace. The way of the canoe is the way of the wilderness and of a freedom almost forgotten. It is an antidote to insecurity, the open door to waterways of ages past and a way of life with profound and abiding satisfactions. When a man is part of his canoe, he is part of all that canoes have ever known."




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