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Thread: Canoe Trip Advice:

  1. #1
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    Default Canoe Trip Advice:

    Hey Guys.
    I was wondering if I could get some advice from the "Been There-Done That" crowd...

    I am planning on taking my first canoe trip in Alaska this summer. Not sure "exactly" which river yet, but I still have time to figure that out. I have canoed extensively down in the lower-48, many, many miles of happy times, but having bought my canoe late last fall, I never had the time to really take it out. (It's a coleman "scanoe" with a 3HP outboard.)

    The trip will be my girl and I, and we will have a member of her family take us up river (Early Friday) to a drop point, and then pickup us up on Sunday.

    I've poured over the various posts here, and learned alot about the things that I was a little "challenged" about. But, I still have a few things that I'm trying to work through:

    1) What's the best way to carry extra gasoline, without having bears eat my little plastic can?

    2) Using a steel/plastic drum, lashed in the bottom of my canoe; do I have to hang the thing in the trees at night to keep the bears out of my food.

    3) Would roasting marshmellows on the fire create an issue with bears?

    4) Does leaving a lantern burning at night reduce the possibility of bear and other animals visiting my area at night?

    5) I plan on toting a .338Mag as my primary rifle. Other than tying the thing to the canoe, is there a better way to carry it onboard, and have it at hand, without loosing it should I tip the canoe?

    Yeah-I think that you could probably guess that I have some apprehention about bears. Perhaps it's because I scared the crap out of myself reading the "Bear Attack" books, trying to get a handle on things. But not enough to keep me out of the woods.

    I live in Chugiak/Eagle River. Was looking at the Eklunta or Knick rivers as a place to start my adventure.

    Your thoughts, suggestions, and hard-earned experience should appreciated.
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  2. #2
    Member mainer_in_ak's Avatar
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    The Knick is turbulent and very silty, and I'd probably forget about Eklutna too. Your 3 hp. outboard would push you and your girl just fine in the slower and meandering rivers. I would suggest the Little Sue as your best bet. Bear activity along the Little Sue won't be a big issue. It's never a bad thing to keep food away from the campsite anyways just to get yourself into the good habit. The risk of capsizing on the Little Sue is also minimal. If you're still concerned about the rifle, there are waterproof/floating gunbags out there. I read a book on expedition canoeing in which the author always carried his lever rifle in a gunbag and recomended it. Just a word of advice.......if your 3hp outboard is actually a 3.3 and is a nissan, tohatsu, or merc check your shear pin. Some of those 3.3's had a brass shear pin which is junk and can't even handle one run in with a rock. Make sure to buy a bolt on prop and skeg protector and replace the brass pins with steel ones if you have one of the above mentioned outboards.

  3. #3

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    The little susitna would be ideal. Just have them drop you off at the Parks bridge and pick you up at Burma Landing. Don't need gasoline at all, just float down.

    Don't worry about bears. If they eat you, they eat you.

    Actually, just tie your gun to the canoe and hope for the best.

    There are some sweepers on the Little Su but nothing you can't handle if you are at all experienced.

    You can bring your motor but a 3 day float down to Burma Landing should be easy without a motor.
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    Default Trip

    Looks like you need a larger canoe by the photoes
    just kidding you will do just fine

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    Default Dang Good Advice

    I sure appreciate the advice fella's.

    Yep-I have one of those outboards. It's a Suzuki 3HP. I chose it because its lightweight and small. But having it checked out is on my list of priorities, for sure.

    I will check out the Rivers you guys mentioned. I was kinda' wondering of the two down here were good for what I am doing. This will be my GF's first river trip. (yeah-she's one of those blonde princesses HEH HEH)

    HAHAHAHA! I just might have to get myself a bigger tub one day. I told her it was a three day trip, and she wants to bring 30-days worth of SHTUFF---!! LOL!

    Thanks guys

  6. #6
    Member SoggyMountain's Avatar
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    I think your bear apprehension is well placed. - though, no reason to be paranoid. They inhabit the neighborhood you live in, and, everywhere else.

    Bears like motor oil, but dislike gasoline.

    I'd recommend a second gun for the second passenger - 12 guage, as well as a holstered side arm.

    It's not only bears that you have to worry about... Getting stranded, injured, etc., and one of you might end up responsible for the other. This could be worse than any bear encounter.

    Don't forget your paddles... and keep the camp clean.

    For three days I'd probably just wear my long gun on a sling while in the canoe. And, wipe it down at every stop.... I keep a oiled rag in a ziplock.

    I think it sounds like fun from here.
    "...just because we didn't agree with you doesn't mean we didn't have good discussion. It just means you missed it." -JMG-

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    Default yeppers-

    Soggy Mountain: I think your right--It's gonna be fun.
    The passenger (My GF) tried to shoot the Rem-870 2-3/4" Slugs, but it kinda' made her wince. Tried the 338Mag, and to much kick. Friday I'm gonna get a 30-06 and see if that cures the problem. She shoots 9mm and .223 pretty good, but that's about it. (I got a mule-kicking little 7.62x54R, but I already know the rifle is to heavy for her.)

    Paddles-Check
    First Aid Kit-Check
    Oil Rag-Check
    Bag Full Of Patience-Hell Noooo!

    I'll probably cook dinner, clean everything up; and then paddle dowstream a little further to camp for the night.

    Not paranoid; but this will definately be a new thing for me as well. I've hunted, fished, camped, hiked. and canoed all over the states; but never in an area like this.

    Got the camera all charged up, and counting the days until i can get gone from civilization for awhile.
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    here's a vote for a decrease in the arsenal. the handgun is probably a total waste of space and weight and worry. the rifle is fine...so long as you are a HIGHLY skilled shot capable of hitting a dinner plate bobbing at you at 25mph while you are shaking in your boots and your girl is screaming in your ear.

    bring a can of pepper spray, your girl can carry it in a holster on her belt. for what its worth, when it comes to a good result from a bear encounter, its been shown that pepper spray is superior to firearms.

    if you do carry a weapon, make it the 12 gauge with OO and a few slugs.

  9. #9

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    I'd bring the rifle and also pick up a portable electric bear fence -- cheap, light and very effective. Peace of mind with a child around. You can then roast marshmellows to your heart's content.

  10. #10
    Member SoggyMountain's Avatar
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    I do like the idea of the bear spray gulkana suggested - especially if she is more comfortable with it. But, guns are not used exclusively for bear protection, and a second gun for the second passenger represents the only gun if something happens to the first one.
    "...just because we didn't agree with you doesn't mean we didn't have good discussion. It just means you missed it." -JMG-

  11. #11

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    soggy,

    sounds like you may not have much experience camping in bear country. the best book that i have ever found about this is:

    Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance (revised edition) by Stephen Herrero

    p/u a copy. they may have it in your local library. its written by a scientist who has spent his entire life studying bears. its the best "bear advice" around—based on science rather than anectdotal stories. amongst everything else re bears he writes about weapons and pepper spray.

    also, from (www.udap.com/bearnews.pdf):
    "The question is not one of marksmanship or clear thinking in the face of a growling bear, for even a skilled
    marksman with steady nerves may have a slim chance of deterring a bear attack with a gun. Law
    enforcement agents for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have experience that supports this reality --
    based on their investigations of human-bear encounters since 1992, persons encountering grizzlies and
    defending themselves with firearms suffer injury about 50% of the time. During the same period, persons
    defending themselves with pepper spray escaped injury most of the time, and those that were injured
    experienced shorter duration attacks and less severe injuries. Canadian bear biologist Dr. Stephen Herrero
    reached similar conclusions based on his own research -- a person’s chance of incurring serious injury from
    a charging grizzly doubles when bullets are fired versus when bear spray is used."

  12. #12

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    You do have to take Herrero's conclusions with a grain of salt. He did not take into account a huge number of variables that make his conclusions about spray vs. firearms pretty suspect.

    For example, there is no research into the types of firearms used in the reported encounters. Using an inadequate firearm such as a small calibre revolver is bound to get you hurt by the bear. There was no research into the skills of the user of the firearm. There was no comparison of the number of reported incidents with spray vs. firearms. If firearm users encounter bears 200 times more than spray users (e.g., hunters) then the numbers of injuries will likely increase statistically. There was no research into whether spray encounters were true attacks or bluffs. And it goes on and on.

    Your best bet is to carry both spray and a firearm, and use whatever is at hand at the time.

  13. #13

    Default Very good points

    I am also very skeptical about those "studies" comparing the two. Consider this kind of situation. You could out into a clearing to find a bear standing there staring at you. It doesn't run away right away, but isn't charging. If you have spray, there is a pretty good chance you will use it to "convince" the bear to move away, which it probably would. If you had a gun, you would likely wait to see if the bear is going to be agressive or not before acting. If the bear either turns and leaves or you back away from the situation, it most likely will never be counted as an "encounter" with a gun. On the other side, if you used your spray, people would normally count that as an "encounter" starting to skew the numbers.

    Overall, the best thing to do is use whatever you are comfortable with. A majority of "average" people out there would definitely be better off with spray for a number of reasons. Most people are not trained with guns. Most people would be either hesitant to use a gun or not competent enough to use it effectively. In those cases, no matter how much better a gun is compared to spray means nothing if you don't shoot, wait too long, or don't hit the target. People have no reason to be hesitate with spray or need much accuracy and thus it has a better chance of helping them. People who are trained with guns and have the mentality not to hesitate when it is needed are likely better off with a gun than spray. There is no good rule you can apply to everyone. One instrument isn't going to work the same for everyone.

  14. #14

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    I agree but I still think you should have both on a long remote trip. There is always a chance the spray won't work (or works for a short time until the bear resumes aggression) and the only option is to dispatch it.

  15. #15
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    Default Bear Spray vs. Gun

    I agree with everyone on the use of spray vs. guns. I had intended to bring both anyway.

    Yeah-i know you can make any 'study, text, computation" come out in whatever way you want, simply by crunching the numbers in the desired direction. Personally; there is no way that I would leave my gun at home and take the spray as my only means of protection.

    8 years Army Ranger, (hasbeen) Avid Hunter, skilled shooter. Not rattled easy. Having said that, I DOOOO expect my heart to do a little race when the first charge occurs.

    I've got some good advice on here, and I do intend to utelize what I've been told. Now just have to find the right place to start the trip; one that will last a weekend.

  16. #16
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    I usually dive right into the spray vs gun arguement. Dang treehuggers. Kidding... But there seems to be a good spirited bunch posting here so it does not seem appropriate.

    I prefer guns anyday, but agree that both have their place. I like guns, but let the wife carry the spray. We sleep in a UDAP fence at night for added peace of mind. Slick kit that packs small and weighs under 5 lbs. A nice addition to our float trips. Anyone wants to read a good argument for/against bear spray/guns, there is one in the hiking forum. Admittingly, I was stirring the pot pretty good. Some good info in that thread for both sides.

    http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/...ad.php?t=45976


    Below is a pic of the UDAP fence. It is just big enough for a 3-4 person tent and raft. 20' x 20' I think.

    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

  17. #17
    Moderator Alaskacanoe's Avatar
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    Default I like the fence

    I have a couple of electric fences, and old one that is like 20 yrs old, and last year got the NEW little kit one like Danattherock showed in pict.
    They truly work and would "HELP" bring peace of mind to the lady in my life.. The key word HELP here,, My wife thinks about bears all the time, and it drives me crazy... but,, those are her thoughts so I respect them and try to do things that will help make the trips more about enjoying the whole thing rather than just about the evil man eating bears...lol
    Do your research as suggested and then pick your protection..,, ..
    When you come to a fork in the trail, take it!

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  18. #18

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    A .338, 12ga and a holstered side arm ? Honestly, in my 32 1/2 years in the state I have never had a negative encounter with a bear, never even felt threatened by a bear. leave the .338 and handgun behind and take the 12ga.

    Your best defense against a bear is to avoid any negative encounter; stay alert, be aware and use common sense. Keep a clean camp.

    Bearanoia aside that is one huge canoe you have there. The Little Su would be fun except for the boat traffic. That is a narrow and twisting river that is very crowded during fishing season, that makes it undesirable and a bit dangerous IMO. Personally I think I would spend too much time listening for a power boat running the river (so that I could get the canoe off to the side and avoid getting swamped or run into ) than enjoying the scenery. I cannot even think of a river in Southcentral that I would feel comfortable floating a canoe down other than Moose river.

    If you have or have access to or are willing to rent a canoe, I suggest you consider the Swan Lake Canoe system in the Kenai Natl. Wildlife refuge near Sterling. This is a wilderness area with many lakes and portages, great fishing(even freshwater calms), scenery and wildlife. My wife, our two dogs and myself fit all we need into 2 back packs and 17' Grumman alum. canoe and spend a week in there. Sometimes we portage to the middle fork of the Moose River and float to Sterling. The solitude is spectacular.

    For a 3 day trip I would (without knowing your fitness level) I would suggest going to Spruce lake the first day. The second day take your lunch and fishing gear and go on to Gavia lake( and maybe beyind) for the day to fish and explore. Then out on the 3rd day. Maps are readily available at local stores such as Fred Meyer.

  19. #19
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    Default Air Horn, and a big handgun…

    Air Horn, and a big handgun…
    I get bears around my house every year; we use the canned air horn to free up some space. Most of the time they run up the closest tree… then it takes about 15 minutes for them to come back down and leave.
    One year, while moose hunting, we had a bear pushing in on our tent. My hunting partner couldn’t get his rifle because the bear was standing on it. He was screaming at me to shoot! (I had my pistol) Problem was we had another tent behind ours, and I wasn’t going to just start shooting through my tent, I was screaming at him to give me the flashlight so I could get out of the tent to get a target. Between our screaming the bear ran off.

    The next day we figured out that we had made our camp in the middle of a bear trail, beside the creek.

    My vote would be Air horn, Bear spray, and then pistol. The pistol is to be kept on you via shoulder holster. If the noise, and the bear spray doesn’t deter the bear… then he’s going to be on you. The rifle is only good if it’s in your hands. I’ve heard too many stories about the rifle being in the boat, against the tree, or knocked out of your hands.

    The best bear deterrent is a tag… if you have one and your hunting bear you’ll never see one!

  20. #20
    Member garnede's Avatar
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    Franke261,

    For the bears take whatever you need to make yourself, or your lady friend, comfortable. But on the Little Su I have seen few bears compared to most areas. You stand a higher chance of seeing a bear in your yard in Eagle River than on the little su. Your canoe should be just fine for the little su. On weekends the last 8 miles upstream from Burma Landing gets a lot of power boat traffic. The rest of the river, 42 miles from the highway to Burma, sees sporadic power boat use and a fair number of people floating down the river. If you want to do a trial run you can float from the Parks Hwy to Millers Reach, about 1 hour, and it is mostly near the road and homes. If you camp on gravel bars and not in the woods then you will avoid most wildlife encounters. Game trails usually are 30-100 yards into the brush/wood line.
    It ain't about the # of pounds of meat we bring back, nor about how much we spent to go do it. Its about seeing what no one else sees.

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