Paddling Guide Books

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The essentials

Keystone Canoeing: A Guide to Canoeable Water of Eastern Pennsylvania by Edward Gertler., Seneca Press.

Maryland and Delaware Canoe Trails: A Paddler’s Guide to Rivers of the Old Line and First States by Edward Gertler, Seneca Press.

Garden State Canoeing: A Paddler’s Guide to New Jersey by Edward Gertler, Seneca Press.  Seneca Press.

As essential to paddling the rivers of these states as your canoe or kayak! All are illustrated with maps that show access points, local roads, dams and other obstructions and more. They describe trip characteristics, scenery, water quality, level of difficulty, hazards, recommended gage readings and more. Covers all levels of difficulty, from flatwater to expert-level rivers. Gertler personally paddles every trip listed in his books. Among the best guide books ever written in any outdoor sport!  Ed Gertler’s web site.

Sea Kayaking

The Coastal Kayaker’s Manual, The Complete Guide to Skills, Gear, and Sea Sense (by Randel Washburne. Good basic must have book.

Sea Kayaking in Nova Scotia by Scott Cunningham. An excellent book I have used much. A Gertler-level guidebook! Which is fortunate, since it is the only one available for this sea kayaking paradise.


Sea Kayaking Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay: Day Trips on the Tidal Tributaries and Coastlines of the Western and Eastern Shore by Michael Savario and Andrea Nolan, Backcountry Press, Woodstock, VT,, paperback, 2003. Review by Eric Pavlak.

With 4,600 miles of tidal shoreline and more than 400 rivers and creeks, the Chesapeake Bay can be a paddler’s paradise. Unfortunately, it takes careful planning and a bit of experience in avoiding the paddling hell of power boats and overdevelopment that mars much of the bay. A good guide book in invaluable.

Sea Kayaking Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay is the excellent guide to paddling some of the nearby tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay. It’s fortunate that is good, because it is the only one available. (Ed Gertler’s Delaware and Maryland Canoe Trails, Senaca Press, does overlap on the tidal rivers, but does not cover open water.)

A good guide book writer must actually paddle (or hike or bicycle) all the trips described. Similarly, a good reviewer must actually do some of the trips described in the book to give a fair evaluation. Thus it has taken me some time to properly rate this book.

First, I have found this book accurate. This is most important. The trip descriptions are excellent, and include access information, safety considerations, and general wind and tide information. There are excellent driving directions to put-ins, many of which are otherwise obscure and hard to find.

The book includes usable charts of all trips. It is illustrated with many photographs, and includes information on the ecology wildlife and history of the trip areas.

There is also information on equipment and paddling skills, plus lots of extra information on safety, weather, travel and land accommodations.

The Chesapeake’s tides are minor; its winds are not. It is wide and open with little shelter from the flat land. Due consideration is given to wind in this book. Often the route taken, direction of travel and even the advisability of the trip are wind dependent.

While excellent, this book is not without deficiencies. While Chesapeake tides are small, sometimes they matter, particularly when combined with wind. Example: on the Tilghman Island trip, the paddler is warned of tidal current in the Knapp Narrows, yet no direction of flow based on the tide stage is given. It is not obvious. Also, it would be useful to list tide stations and relevant marine charts.

Aesthetic and safety considerations seem to make me a bit less tolerant of recreational power boats than the authors. I have done a lot of paddling in cold weather and in places like Maine and Nova Scotia, and am used to being free of them. So when the authors warn of high boat traffic, you probably don’t want to go there.

Conclusion: I give this book an A rating. Get it before you go and enjoy many, many days of happy paddling.

Rescue and safety

Whitewater Rescue Manual: New Techniques for Canoeists, Kayakers, and Rafters by Charles Walbridge and Wayne A. Sundmacher

This is the best available, but then I am biased. I took my training from the authors. The one below is also good, but spends far too much time on technical rescues I have never seen, let alone used. In whitewater rescues, speed is the essence!

River Rescue: A Manual for Whitewater Safety, AMC Paddlesports by Slim Ray and Les Bechdel


Learning to roll is like learning to play a musical instrument. It does not come at once, and requires lots of practice. Learning to roll in whitewater or on the ocean even more so. Your first thousand rolls will be the hardest.

Eskimo Rolling, by Derek Hutchinson Illustrated with photos and drawings that actually make sense. For sea kayaking and whitewater, including canoe and C-1 rolls.

The Bombproof Roll and Beyond by Paul Dutkey