Swamps (what if?)

Joined
Feb 13, 2014
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minnesota
Im sure most of you fellow canoeist enjoy the scenery and solitude of swamps. I've posted about tipping a canoe over and got many good tips on what to do. Today, as I was paddling across a very large swamp, I started to wonder about tipping over as a gust of wind almost blew me out of control. The water was only 3 feet deep. But, I could easily push my paddle into the muddy bottom another 2 feet. So, what happens if you tip over and your feet sink into that mud. There you are stuck in the mud, 100 yard from shore, and I highly doubt theres anyone else around to help.

Anyone have any good stories to tell about muddy yucky lake bottoms?
 
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I was on a Quebec trip years ago with a group of friends, when we started a portage. It was an easy but long one. There was a "short cut" through a shallow lake that looked tempting on the map. As we stood and discussed a long walk vs a shorter paddle, a bedraggled group shlopped up the side trail into view. They were covered in mud from their necks down. They explained they had risked the late season (October) short cut-shallow lake route option. By the time they'd reached half way across the "lake", they'd pretty much run out of water. That's when they got out to push. I asked how does one push a loaded canoe across 1" of water and 3' of muck? They described how they "swam through it", one hand on the gunwale, the other trying to float. We all laughed about it together, but inwardly I shuddered. It looked kinda dangerous to me.
I and my eldest son have ferried near empty canoes across shallow mucky waters, to save on a difficult carry, but I was nervous the whole time. Whenever I take a tumble into shallow and mucky beaver ponds (it happens) I never try to stand up, but instead opt to swim my way out. I can't shake the image of those muddy paddlers from years ago.
 
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Just how many times did you tip over in those beaver ponds?

Ha!! As infrequently as possible, but it sometimes happens. The canoe and gear sits happy and high on the dam staying dry. Me getting a little (or a lot) wet is no big deal.
 
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Joined
Jun 12, 2012
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Appleton, Maine
It was spring in LaVerendrye, Quebec. I left my campsite and went fishing up a long arm of the lake I was on. I pushed up a stream that flowed into the lake and crossed some beaver dams. I was paddling a Mad River Guide and wasn't very comfortable in the canoe, especially in situations like this, climbing over beaver dams.

I arrived at the base of a high beaver dam so I did what comes natural in a situation like this. I stood up to see what the pond on the other side looked like. Maybe I stretched a little, maybe leaned, but the next thing I knew I was in the water, and not a drop of water was in the canoe. Fortunately, I landed chest deep in a beaver trench so I didn't hit a stump or rock, but the water was cold. I managed to find some solid footing and climb back in for a long cold paddle back to my campsite.
 
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A lot of if's here but personally I wouldn't let my feet hit the bottom nor would I try to stand up. I'd assume you were wearing your pfd?

In that case just grab the boat and swim it to the closest spot which looks solid. You should be able to swim in 2-3' of water without touching. I know I can.
 
Joined
Feb 1, 2013
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Well, the mistaken part is assuming that it is water. In the swamps up here, the bottoms consist of what we refer to as "loon shit". As soon as you disturb the water, the loon shit rises up and thickens the water to the consistency of a watery mud. It is difficult to swim in, paddle in or walk in. It is always preferable to stay in the canoe, loon shit is my least favourite thing. So, for the OP, try to crawl back into the canoe, it will be dirty, but it's better than the alternative.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
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Done that lots. Loonshit is the worst in the Adirondacks and boreal. I always test the bottom before getting out. The WORST in the West. It happens to me now and then. Just "swim" out of the predicament. This is one of the situations in which I find wearing a PFD very useful.
 
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Loonshit is the worst in the Adirondacks and boreal. I always test the bottom before getting out. The WORST in the West. It happens to me now and then. Just "swim" out of the predicament. This is one of the situations in which I find wearing a PFD very useful.

I’d put what the watermen of the Eastern Shore call “Pluff Mud” up against anything. It has the consistency of undercooked chocolate mousse. But, regrettably, not the smell or taste. You can easily sink chest deep and immobilized if you try to stand up in it.

To wit – for years we conducted Canoe Orienteering Challenges in the marshes of Dorchester County. On one occasion I thought we were going to need a crane to extract a rather large challenger who had made the mistake of going over the side and trying to stand up.

Even in pluff mud all is not lost. One participant, paddling a sea kayak (a very poor boat choice in that environment) was so determined to secure a marker that he exited his boat 50 feet from shore on a pluff mud flat.

(I should add that setting up the orienteering course was far more fun than competing in it. Over the years laying out the course we became increasingly devilish in deliberately leading people astray. Often heading directly towards the surveyor’s ribbon at the marsh edge was a trap, and it was best to come ashore distant and proceed overland).

Said sea kayaker was wearing a wet suit. He exited his boat, got face-down prone on the 1 inch of water/3 feet of pluff mud and, with paddle in hand, and “swam” across the surface to the spartina grass at the marsh edge.

This would have been a rewarding effort, but on looking back towards his kayak he discovered that his copy of the orienteering map and guide had fallen out near the kayak.

He turtled over the mud back to his boat, got the map, back to shore, got his marker, back to his boat and performed a seriously mud-covered reentry for his only points of the day.

He finished first in the Masters Sea Kayak class. As the only entrant.
 
Joined
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In Maine we are blessed with rocks. Now that's not to say there is no mud! Once on a club trip in Cobscook Bay a kayaker was slow to load his boat. There is a twenty four foot tide there. When he was ready. He was looking at 500 feet of mud clam flat.
You learn quickly your tide behavior to avoid that at launch or exit!
 
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I grew up on a Maine mudflat. It was great fun watching the tourist push boats hundreds of feet over the mud!
 
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