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For your reading pleasure: The top 10 adventure paddling books of all times

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For your reading pleasure: The top 10 adventure paddling books of all times

Canoe & Kayak Magazine recommended the following list of books as the “10 Best Adventure Paddling Books.” However, they did include a cautionary remark:

“Determining the 10 best adventure paddling books ever written is a presumptuous task-but one has to start somewhere.”

We agree with “one has to start somewhere.” Therefore, we are offering you this list in hopes that it will inspire you to conjure one of your own.

We also encourage you to submit your top 10 recommendations to Charlotte Canoeing Examiner. You will find a link at the end of this article. You can also post your list and comments on Facebook and Twitter.

We always welcome your comments.

If you are a Subscriber and would like your recommendations posted on Charlotte Canoeing Examiner, mention that in your comments.

The Idea, with your Help, is to grow this List into The 100 Best Adventure Paddling Books by the end of the Year 2014

1. Courting the Diamond Sow: A Whitewater Expedition on Tibet’s Forbidden River by Wickliffe W. Walker

The Tsangpo River in Tibet is a river of myriad names. Many call this mysterious and powerful river the Mount Everest of rivers.

Peter Heller of Outside magazine refers to the Tsangpo River as “Liquid Thunder.” He writes that:

“It's the cradle of Shangri-La, and one of the deepest river gorges on earth. It’s a fortress guarding sacred waterfalls, and a cauldron of savage whitewater and unrunnable rapids. In the chill of the Himalayan winter, seven world-class kayakers led a massive expedition into the shadowy realm of Tibet's Tsangpo River, and launched their boats down its roaring throat. They were either going to die or emerge transformed.”

In 1998, a four-man paddling team attempted to make history by becoming the first to navigate a remote, 140-mile stretch of the river. One member Doug Gordon drowned. The members of his team were unable to recover his body.

Courting the Diamond Sow: A Whitewater Expedition on Tibet’s Forbidden River is a compelling narrative of this historic adventure.

2. One Celtic Tides: One Man’s Journey Around Ireland by Sea Kayak by Chris Duff

On Celtic Tides is a “paddling memoir” written by Chris Duff. He describes his 1,200-mile kayak adventure along the coasts of Ireland. Along the way he, “Does a fine job capturing the sights, culture, history, and people of the Irish coasts.

The next two paragraphs are excerpts from a Book Review written by author Kerry Ross:

I’ve always been a boat person. Ever since I can remember, water has been an irresistible magnet. Maybe it’s the sea in my Irish blood – because no matter where you are in Ireland, you’re never far from the sea – or maybe it’s because I was born in the sign of Pisces. I used to laugh at my mother who’d get seasick on a raft in the neighbor’s pool, because I was born with sea legs. I was devastated when my uncle sold the Freudian Sloop (he’s a psychologist) and moved away. The memories of summer days sailing Lake Michigan out of South Haven are some of my fondest – the perfect venue for listening to Moody Blues albums.

When I saw this book in a review journal, I immediately ordered a copy for the library I worked for and then ordered another for myself. I couldn’t put it down. While I’ve never had the courage to go kayaking, let alone sea kayaking, Chris Duff’s experiences have proved invaluable as a window on ancient Irish life. The Gaels took to the sea in small ox-hide boats (usually made for one to three men) called curachs, which they still use today, and larger warships known as secht-sess (seven-benchers), carrying perhaps fourteen men.

3. Dangerous River: Adventure on the Nahanni by R. M. Patterson

Many readers, writers and critics consider Raymond Murray Patterson one of the finest writers of the Canadian wilderness.

His admirers also recognized him as a careful and sympathetic observer, a courageous explorer and a meticulous historian

Mr. Patterson published five books in 14-years: Dangerous River (1954), Buffalo Head (1961), Far Pasturn (1963), Dial to the Interior (1966) and Finlay’s River (1968)

He wrote Dangerous River when he was 55-years-old. That was 26 years after his first visit to the wilderness of the Nahanni Country.

Mr. Patterson’s “Dangerous River” is the South Nahanni River. It is located in the southwest corner of the Northwest Territories of Canada. The headwaters begin in the mountains of the Yukon border and flow into the Laird River in British Columbia.

In 1927, when Patterson embarked on his journey into the Canadian wilderness, few people knew of this river’s existence. Fewer still had ventured into its forbidding canyons.

Why did he go? Why did he remain a year? What tempted him to spend the winter in Deadmen’s Valley?

4. Keep Australia on Your Left: A True Story of an Attempt to Circumnavigate Australia by Kayak, by Eric Stiller

Some people like author Erik Olson consider Eric Stiller an Urban Legend. “The New York City Kayaking community is surprisingly small and close. In the city of eight million, there are no more than a hundred die-hard kayakers.”

5. Where Rivers Run: A 6,000-Mile Exploration of Canada by Canoe, by Joanie and Gary McGuffin

“Crossing Canada by Canoe is not your typical honeymoon destination, but for the McGuffins it seemed a reasonable way to start a marriage.”

6. Travels with a Kayak by Whit Deschner

Travels With a Kayak chronicles more than 30 years of international travel by writer and humorist Whit Deschner. Some of the places he paddled include New Zealand, Napal, Pakistan, India, Great Britain, the Grand Canyon… You just have to read the book

Travels With a Kayak is Winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award/Humor.

7. The Lonely Land by Sigurd F. Olson

“This is the memorable and moving description of a 500-mile trip on the Churchill River in eastern Saskatchewan by six friends in 1955 in three wood-and-canvas canoes. Naturalist Sigurd Olson does a fine job of recounting the memories and journals of the early voyageurs. He is pleased to note that not much has changed in the intervening centuries. Most poignant is how intensely this jovial band of paddlers adapts to the magnificent wilderness that unfurls before them.” (Canoe & Kayak Magazine)

8. Paddle to the Artic by Don Starkell

Canoeist Don Starkell Dies

Legendary paddler canoed from Winnipeg to Brazil

By: Jeff Moag / Posted on January 30, 2012

Don Starkell, who claimed to have paddled more miles than any person in history, died of cancer Saturday at his home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Winnipeg Free Press reports. He was 79.

The famously stubborn canoeist is best known for paddling 12,000 miles with his son Dana, from their home near Winnipeg to the mouth of the Amazon. The 1980 open canoe journey earned the Starkells a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. It was but one episode in a life of canoeing and kayaking that, according to Starkell’s meticulous journals, spanned nearly 75,000 miles.

In addition to the Amazon expedition, Starkell took part in the 1967 trans-Canada Centennial paddle and in the 1991 and 1992 paddling seasons, he attempted to kayak the Northwest Passage. Trapped in packed ice and slipping in and out of consciousness, the then 59-year-old Starkell accepted a helicopter rescue just 36 miles from the finish.

“I was going to die, but I would not let my mind accept it,” Starkell told C&K Editor-at-Large Conor Mihell in 2010, while recovering from a house fire that nearly claimed his life.

9. Alone at Sea by Hannes Lindemann

In October 1955, Hannes Lindemann set out in a dugout canoe and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from the Canary Islands to Jacmel, Haiti, alone and unassisted. He landed in January 1956.

This remarkable achievement was done in a wooden canoe carved out of the trunk of mahogany, two and a half feet wide, and twenty five feet long. Even in today’s modern times this would still be regarded as something rather extraordinary.

10. Canoeing with the Cree by Eric Severeid

Eric Severeid and Walter Port were 17 and 19 respectively when they canoed to Hudson Bay from Minneapolis in 1930. The two young Minneapolis men launched their trip in June, shortly after graduating from High School.

Their proposed trip was extraordinarily audacious at the time given the great distance they were to travel and the remoteness of the Canadian wilderness. there were no maps for much of the area they would canoe through in Manitoba-it was very much 'uncharted' territory. It was little changed from the time of the Voyageurs who plied their fur trade in the area in the 1600's.

They recounted their trip in the book "Canoeing with the Cree," written by Severeid and first published in 1930.

The Minnesota Historical Society has since republished the book. The book was based on a diary the two kept on their trip and on a series of newspaper articles the two wrote on their trip. The Minneapolis Star, the newspaper that sponsored their trip, published 11 articles.

Copies of the book are available through the Minnesota Historical Society (www.mnhs.org) and found at many bookstores throughout Minnesota.

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Courting the Diamond Sow
Courting the Diamond Sow Wickliffe W. Walker

Courting the Diamond Sow


In 1998, four-man paddling team attempted to make history by becoming the first to navigate a remote, 140-mile stretch of the river. One member Doug Gordon drowned. The members of his team were unable to recover his body.

Courting the Diamond Sow: A Whitewater Expedition on Tibet’s Forbidden River is a compelling narrative of this historic adventure

On Celtic Tides
On Celtic Tides Chris Duff

On Celtic Tides

2. One Celtic Tides: One Man’s Journey Around Ireland by Sea Kayak by Chris Duff

On Celtic Tides is a “paddling memoir” written by Chris Duff. He describes his 1,200-mile kayak adventure along the coasts of Ireland. Along the way he, “Does a fine job capturing the sights, culture, history, and people of the Irish coasts.

The next two paragraphs are excerpts from a Book Review written by author Kerry Ross:

 I’ve always been a boat person. Ever since I can remember, water has been an irresistible magnet. Maybe it’s the sea in   my Irish blood – because no matter where you are in Ireland, you’re never far from the sea – or maybe it’s because I was born in the sign of Pisces. I used to laugh at my mother who’d get seasick on a raft in the neighbor’s pool, because I was born with sea legs. I was devastated when my uncle sold the Freudian Sloop (he’s a psychologist) and moved away. The memories of summer days sailing Lake Michigan out of South Haven are some of my fondest – the perfect venue for listening to Moody Blues albums.

When I saw this book in a review journal, I immediately ordered a copy for the library I worked for and then ordered another    for myself. I couldn’t put it down. While I’ve never had the courage to go kayaking, let alone sea kayaking, Chris Duff’s experiences have proved invaluable as a window on ancient Irish life. The Gaels took to the sea in small ox-hide boats (usually made for one to three men) called curachs, which they still use today, and larger warships known as secht-sess (seven-benchers), carrying perhaps fourteen men.

Dangerous River
Dangerous River R. M. Patterson

Dangerous River

3. Dangerous River: Adventure on the Nahanni by R. M. Patterson

Mr. Patterson’s “Dangerous River” is the South Nahanni River. It is locates in the southwest corner of the Northwest Territories of Canada. The headwaters begin in the mountains of the Yukon border and flows into the laird.

In 1927, when Patterson embarked on his journey into the Canadian wilderness, few people knew of this river’s existence. Fewer still had ventured into its forbidding canyons.

Why did he go? Why did he remain a year? What tempted him to spend the winter in Deadmen's Valley?

Keep Australia on Your Left
Keep Australia on Your Left Eric Stiller

Keep Australia on Your Left

4. Keep Australia on Your Left: A True Story of an Attempt to Circumnavigate Australia by Kayak by Eric Stiller

Some people like author Erik Olson consider Eric Stiller an Urban Legend. “The New York City Kayaking community is surprisingly small and close. In the city of eight million, there are no more than a hundred die-hard kayakers."

Where Rivers Run
Where Rivers Run Joanie and Gary McGuffin

Where Rivers Run

5. Where Rivers Run: A 6,000-Mile Exploration of Canada by Canoe, by Joanie and Gary McGuffin

This classic adventure story first published in 1988 continues to be a best-seller. Where Rivers Run is the record of a remarkable odyssey across Canada by water. To fulfill their dream of traveling from sea to sea in a canoe, wilderness adventurers Joanie & Gary McGuffin, recently married, set out from the Gulf of St. Lawrence amongst beluga and fin whales. Two years, 6,000 miles and 10 million paddle strokes later; they reached the open waters of the Arctic Ocean at the mouth of the Mackenzie River.

Travels With a Kayak
Travels With a Kayak Whit Deschner

Travels With a Kayak

6. Travels with a Kayak by Whit Deschner

Whit Deschner, possibly canoeing's most entertaining writer, has written a book about his 'Travels with a Kayak'. It's packed full of hilarious and sometimes horrific paddling stories, many of which seem way too far fetched to be true, even though we have it on good authority that such unbelievable things did really happen. If you think you've got great stories to tell. don't open your mouth until you've read this book. You might well find your little escapades pale into insignificance compared to this man's. There are some great old school photos in the book and plenty of useful information if you fancy doing a bit of traveling yourself. Travels with a Kayak had us laughing out loud all the way through. It's superb.

—Heather Gunn PLAYBOATING (Great Britain

The Lonely Land
The Lonely Land Sigurd F. Olson

The Lonely Land

7. The Lonely Land by Sigurd F. Olson

Sigurd F. Olson was an American author, environmentalist, and advocate for the protection of wilderness. For more than thirty years, he served as a wilderness guide in the lakes and forests of the Quetico-Superior country of northern Minnesota and northeastern Ontario.

He was known horrifically as the Bourgeois — a term the voyageurs of old used of their trusted leaders.

This book chronicles Sigurd Olson’s canoe trip on the Churchill River in the Canadian wilderness with a group of friends. It is an interesting travel account and describes the growing friendship, forged in the wilderness, between Sig, the Bourgeois, and his friends, the Voyageurs.  

However, The Lonely Land is much more:  It is full of reflections on what we’ve lost as a people since the day we lived among what Sigurd calls the “great silences.”

Paddle to the Artic
Paddle to the Artic Don Starkell

Paddle to the Artic

8. Paddle to the Arctic by Don Starkell

Don Starkell: A great Canadian adventurer takes his final paddle by Joe O'Connor

Out in a world where the only limit was your imagination, and where a divorced father with two teenage sons could pack his boys into a red canoe — with a Canadian flag imprinted on the bow — and paddle away from Winnipeg, Man., in the spring of 1980 and, two years later, paddle into the mouth of the Amazon River.

It was an epic, 20,000 km adventure — the longest canoe trip ever undertaken. The Starkell name would find its way into the Guinness Book of World Records and onto Canadian bookshelves with the publication of Paddle to the Amazon, Mr. Starkell’s account of the trip.

Alone at Sea
Alone at Sea Hannes Lindemann

Alone at Sea

9. Alone at Sea by Hannes Lindemann

Hannes Lindemann, born 28 December 1922, was a struggling medical student in Germany. He harvested crops in England, became a photographer and journalist in Spain as and a laboratory assistant in Morocco. Lindemann even donated blood to get extra cash to fuel his trips while working night jobs.

When he became a plantation doctor in Liberia, built a dugout canoe, the same he would use to cross the Atlantic Ocean. His inquisitive and courageous nature led him to many adventures during which time he experimented on himself in the most extreme of conditions.

Alone at Sea is the chronicle of a restless mind of a restless spirit of the restless being in the relentless pursuit of the illusive wonders of the world

Canoeing with the Cree
Canoeing with the Cree Eric Sevareid

Canoeing with the Cree

10. Canoeing with the Cree by Eric Sevareid

Eric Severeid and Walter Port were 17 and 19 respectively when they canoed to Hudson Bay from Minneapolis in 1930. The two young Minneapolis men launched their trip in June, shortly after graduating from High School.

Their proposed trip was extraordinarily audacious at the time given the great distance they were to travel and the remoteness of the Canadian wilderness. there were no maps for much of the area they would canoe through in Manitoba-it was very much 'uncharted' territory. It was little changed from the time of the Voyageurs who plied their fur trade in the area in the 1600's.

Their trip was recounted in the book "Canoeing with the Cree", written by Severeid and first published in 1930. The Minnesota Historical Society has since republished the book. The book was based on a diary the two kept on their trip and on a series of newspaper articles the two wrote on their trip. The Minneapolis Star, the newspaper that sponsored their trip, published 11 articles.

Copies of the book are available through the Minnesota Historical Society (www.mnhs.org) and can be found at many bookstores throughout Minnesota.

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