Early August we headed out from our urban area close to Amsterdam towards the wild area of water located in The Netherlands province of North Brabant. The National Park Biesbosch area is the delta of two major rivers that intersect before their last miles into the North Sea. For centuries it has been the center of shipping of goods from the sea into the interior of Europe. We loaded Cedar for one last 5 day adventure to practice our skills prior to our scheduled BWCAW trip in Northern Minnesota.
We had heard from the people we had purchased Cedar from that the Biesbosch was a wonderful place to canoe. Away from the light pollution of Amsterdam they told us about a farm that had camping and was only accessible by canoe. We researched it and planned on adding it to our mid-week plan staying over night it would give us some practice of hauling all of our camping gear in the canoe.
We had researched and planned on a nature camping location located at the very north side of the Biesbosch. De Knotwilg is a quiet location overlooking a huge expanse of water and had canoe access straight into the Biesbosch (so they said). What we found out on our own is that the area adjacent to the camping is protected wildlife area and not accessible for kayaks or canoes. The area the camping told us was available for the canoes is what we finally paddled. In theory it is canoe accessible into the Biesbosch but the paddle would have been very long and out of the way to where we really wanted to go.
It was a bit of a portage to the adjacent farm where there was an area where we could launch from into the canal that lead into the Biesbosch. I was glad we had our canoe cart to make it easier. We did two short trips with the canoe into the canal and found on the first trip that the Biesbosch entrance was closed to all boat traffic. This was also the trip where we had our rain gear packed in our day packs but not close enough to grab. This was our poor planning and left us mid-way in our paddle searching for cover in a Dutch downpour. We finally pulled under a bridge but was to late as we were already wet to the bone and all our gear inside our day packs was also wet as it sat in the canoe in about an inch of water on our return to the campground.
The next trip was longer we explored the river surrounded by woods and sheep farms and then floated back to our start point. On this trip I caught a glimpse of a beaver as it swam by and quickly hid in the shoreline branches. We also saw the Dutch kingfisher (aka Ijsvogel).
Mid-week we were joined at the campground by some friends from Zeeland. The canoe trip to the farm island was cancelled so we could spend time with our friends, one of who was very ill at the time.
We instead planned a trip to see the Biesbosch Nature Museum (aka Museum Eiland). This building has a strange and yet ecologically friendly exterior. Covered in green sod on the sides and roof it looks more like the Dutch just dug out a hill and stuck the museum inside. Once inside the interior is flooded with natural light from the huge floor to ceiling south facing windows. There are displays and descriptions of the history and of the nature that exists inside the National Park Biesbosch.
This museum is also the start point for a tour boat ride through the interior of the Park with a guide that explains all the natural aspects of the area and includes some of the shipping and flood history of this unique delta area. At the end of the boat tour and our return to the museum you can once again see how the museum fits perfectly into the landscape. Almost hidden on the horizon with the natural exterior. It almost looked like it was designed by one of JRR Tolkien’s hobbits.
Things we learned this trip:
1. Weather is always a factor. It is wise to have a back up plan in case the wind or the rain is suddenly a factor.
2. Don’t always trust canoe/paddle information provided by the camping. The Biesbosch was accessible from the camping, although not practical. Additional research or more current information from actual recent paddlers would have been more helpful and accurate.
3. Having our rain gear either on (not always handy when paddling) or right at our side is better than in our gear bag.
4. Carpe Diem! Spending time with our friends once again showed us that time with the people we care about is limited. Sharing the outdoors and paddling with them helped all of us realize we need to live for today.
Jachthaven Van Oversteeg – Harbor boat launch into the Biesbosch. We located this boat launch at the end of our trip. For 5 Euro you can launch your canoe with direct water access into the National Park. This location also has many canoes and kayaks for rent.
National Park Biesbosch booklet in English – Wonderful guide to the National Park Biesbosch in English explaining the history and natural wonders of the park.