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What’s the Average Speed You Go In A Canoe?

Canoeing is a great way to get out and about and to see areas that would normally be very difficult to access.

As a result, canoeing long distances can be a very enjoyable activity!

However, many people wonder exactly how far a canoe can go — and how fast it travels on average. 

So, what’s the average speed you go in a canoe?

Although the average speed of a canoe is around 2.5 miles an hour, there’s a bit more to it than that.

Various factors will impact how fast you’ll travel in a canoe.

Additionally, you’ll need to account for rest breaks during a day of travel, as well as time to put ashore at night!

In this article, we’ll be diving into exactly what you can expect from canoe speeds and distances traveled.

Specifically, we’ll focus on:

  • What the average speed of a canoe is
  • How this can change depending on various factors, both environmental and personal
  • How far you can canoe in a single day.

Let’s get into it!

What is the Average Speed of a Canoe?

Canoes average between two to three miles an hour for most people. However, that’s not a blanket rule. 

There are a variety of other factors that will impact your average canoeing speed, which we’ll discuss below.

The Factors That Affect Canoe Speed

woma in canoe

Weather Conditions

The weather has a big impact on any outdoor activity, so it’s no surprise that the same is true for canoeing.

If you’re on open water, rain and wind can cause swells and larger waves.

In turn, these will slow you down – especially if you’re paddling against said swells.

Headwinds and crosswinds can also force you to work against them, meaning you’ll need to put more effort in per mile traveled.

This will lower the average speed you can sustain without getting unnecessarily tired out.

Other than the mechanical impact of bad weather, there can also be other potential complications.  

Heavy rain can mean that it’s a struggle to see ahead of you, resulting in the need to slow down to be sure that you won’t crash into something (or someone!).

In addition, it can become actively dangerous for you to be on the water if the weather gets too bad.

Always be prepared to make your way to shore if it’s starting to get dicey.

This will mean that your average speed over the course of your trip will be much lower, seeing as you’re stopped until the weather clears.

However, it’s always best to be safe!

Canoe Type

There are a variety of types of canoes that you can use, and each of these has its own particular qualities and features.

As a result, the average speed of each canoe type isn’t quite the same!

Recreational Canoes

Recreational canoes are all about stability.

That means that they tend to be less maneuverable than other types of canoes as they’re typically wider to provide a more stable platform on the water.

As a result, these canoes will slow you down if you’re on a trip that requires a large amount of direction change.

A wider canoe will experience more resistance from the water, so you’ll need to contend with a greater opposing force even when traveling with the current.

Touring Canoes

Touring canoes tend to be quite a bit larger than recreational ones, which is great for those carrying more cargo.

They are also able to put on a bit more speed than recreational canoes.

River Canoes

River canoes are very maneuverable due to a high amount of rocker.

In general, a larger amount of rocker tends to decrease the average speed of a canoe.

However, river canoes are the fastest at what they’re designed to do – which is to navigate whitewater and similar environments.  

The high degree of maneuverability and stability puts other types to shame when it comes to the average speed in these environments.

Canoe Configuration and Architecture


Canoes can be constructed from various materials, from solid wood and aluminum to fiberglass.

These materials will all affect your average paddling speed as they change the weight of your boat. 

Some materials for canoes can also increase or decrease comfort, which in turn will change how fast you can paddle.


This might be the most obvious factor about the canoe itself that will slow down your progress.  

More weight means you need to exert more effort to move the canoe along.

Therefore, more strength and stamina will be required to keep the same two to three-mile average pace.

You’ll need to consider the weight of the canoe, as well as the weight of anything else you’re carrying in it – such as a tent or camping/fishing supplies.  


Rocker is the amount of bow-to-stern curve that a canoe has.  

If a canoe has an excessive amount of rocker, its average speed will be lower.

Because the canoe is sitting lower in the water, it will encounter more resistance as it travels.

Symmetry and Asymmetry

A symmetrical canoe is the same shape at both ends, while an asymmetrical canoe has different shapes at its bow and stern.  

Asymmetrical canoes are more efficient to paddle, which will then increase your average speed.


As we talked about with recreational canoes, stability can decrease your average speed if it is achieved by widening the canoe.

However, if your canoe is too unstable, you’re going to be tipping over quite a lot.  

If that’s the case, your average speed will be much lower as you’ll need to keep righting the canoe, re-stowing any gear, and then starting again.

River Current

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. 

If you’re traveling with the current, there’s a good chance that your average speed can jump from two miles an hour to four! 

Even if it’s not that drastic, you’ll certainly still find it easier to pick up the pace.

Similarly, going against the current is going to decrease the average speed you can paddle at.

Your Overall Fitness

The stronger you are, the faster you can paddle!

It’s been proven that ensuring your trunk and arm muscles are trained for the job of canoeing increases your overall speed.

You’ll also need to consider how much endurance you currently have.  

If you get tired quickly and need to take frequent breaks, your average speed will be lower than someone who can paddle for hours at a time.


The way that you paddle will also affect the average speed you can comfortably sustain.  

Paddling with the correct technique will lead to a faster and more comfortable canoeing experience.

Stroke Frequency

Increasing your stroke frequency will mean that you’ll increase the speed of your canoe — but only if you have good technique to go with it.  

That means there is such a thing as a stroke frequency that’s too fast!

You should always prioritize good technique over an increased stroke rate.

How Far Can Someone Canoe in One Day?

The world record for distance traveled by canoe on flat water over the course of twenty-four hours is 156.41 miles, while the furthest distance traveled by canoe on flowing water over the same period is currently 279.02 miles.

You’re probably not going to cover quite that much distance!  

If we assume that you travel at an average speed of 2.5 miles an hour – splitting the typical range right down the middle – then you’d cover 60 miles in 24 hours.

Of course, that’s not likely to happen either.

Most people will take breaks during the day to rest and recover, as well as eat, rehydrate, and of course sleep.

If you’re a skilled canoer, you might be able to use twelve hours of the day for canoeing, with eight hours of sleep and four hours for breaks.

That means you’d probably travel around 30 miles.

However, the consensus among various online commentators is that ten to twenty miles is a more realistic figure for a day’s journey – especially if you’re not trying to set some kind of speed record.

It’s going to come down to your personal fitness, training regime, and the conditions you’re paddling in, as experienced canoeists discussed in this thread.

Key Takeaways

Although the average canoe speed for most people in most circumstances is between two to three miles an hour, this changes depending on a huge variety of factors.

We’ve discussed quite a few of those in this article, such as how the canoe is made, the environment you’re canoeing in, and your fitness level.

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of how fast you’ll be going in your canoe on your next trip!

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