Canoeing is a natural activity. Put anybody in a canoe for the first time having a paddle in his hands and he will paddle spontaneously and properly the first time he dips the paddle into the water. Sure his motions would be a bit awkward at first—he may dig the paddle in, splash, lean hard into the stroke, and tilt the canoe to one side. But within an hour he would have adapted himself to paddling and by the end of a day the average person—man, woman, even a child—will discover he can paddle well. After a few canoe trips,he can be quite an expert.
This is one reason why the canoe design has stayed on practically unchanged since this Indian-craft was chanced upon by French explorers who came to North America early in the seventeenth century. Samuel de Champlain never stopped to marvel at the speed and maneuverability of the birch-bark canoe, and he adopted it at once for his push into theinterior. A canoe was, and is, the ideal craft for stream, river, and lake. Building materials have changed, but the design is as is—there is just no reason to change it.
The most popular canoe today is constructed of aluminum, with fiberglass running a close second. You could still buy canvas-covered wooden canoes, and though they are heavy and expensive and demand considerable maintenance care, they have their place in lake running. For river running and general touring, aluminum and fiberglass canoes are far superior. They are much lighter, maintenance-free, and inexpensive. When a rock tears a hole in either kind of craft, it is readily repaired. If you plan to canoe on a large lake, the canvas-covered wood type is ideal. It bears a deeper keel, taller gunwales, a high, wide bow for taking large waves, and cork floats along the gunwales to enhance stability.