This wonderful paddle location is really a very short drive for us, but we hadn’t paddled the Nieuwkoopse plassen since 2017 when we first were learning how to canoe paddle as a team. You can read about those adventures here.
We started early, although with all the gear packing and loading and the short drive we didn’t get onto the water at the Noorden launch site until close to 9 am.
Anytime prior to the magic hour of 10 am is a great time to do anything in this country and enjoy quiet of nature.
We noticed a few new things (or maybe we had forgotten) like route signs.
Instead of having a planned out route this time we explored the route towards the Meije River on the far East side of the Nieuwkoops plassen.
At the start of the river is a nature center. We stopped only briefly to look at the map.
When we started to paddle on the Meije we noticed three guys working on a water barrier that went across the river. It looked as if we were going to have to turn around and paddle back in the direction we came. One of the guys noticed us and waved us forward to the barrier. We were told to press a button and the barrier gate would operate. Then we could paddle through this water control gate onto the river. This was a new experience for us.
We paddled down the river for a short distance and noticed a second gate leading back into the nature area and was listed for paddle boats only. At this gate I took a short video as we waited for the gate to open.
As we entered this nature area we started to make our way through the canals. The route is pretty understandable, any possible water path that looks like it could be a route has been blocked intentionally with large logs making it very clear the direction of travel. This area was full of bird and insect noises. In fact, it was so quiet I heard a cricket chirping!
Unfortunately, the nature sounds are disrupted by the noises of aircraft engines from the Schiphol airport.
We came into a small lake and started to look for a nice spot to have coffee. Not able to find a good spot to stop, we start to paddle back to the launch site. We noticed now there was more traffic on the water too.
This location also had a very nice (my standard, as a kid I grew up with an outhouse for a toilet) camp outhouse.
At this stop we noticed it was really getting busy on the water with a good combination of large and small boats along with all sorts of paddling crafts.
That was our signal that it was time for us to be getting off the water, as we really don’t enjoy all the traffic.
When we pulled up to the launch site it was also busy with swimmers and other paddlers getting ready to get on the water. Always a challenge to carefully get our beautiful Cedar boat out of the water even more so when we have to tip toe around other people and boats. In this case, on this day, people who really didn’t have a clue about water courtesy.
We loaded up and headed for home.
It was a great time exploring this old paddle location.
I worked for a boss a few years ago he would stop me in the middle of a conversation and tell me to “get out of the weeds”. He didn’t have the time or the energy to listen to a long story about what had happened and how I came to the solution. He only wanted the guts of the situation and what the solution actually was. Then, if asked, he could explain it to his boss. When I finally made it to his position I didn’t have as blunt of an approach with my people but, I did finally really understood why he used the phrase.
Now, that I have provided all of my readers with all the “weeds” and “back story”, I will continue with our most recent paddle into the Weerribben National Park.
I was told about this paddle by my canoe friend Petra about two years ago. I always know which canoe paddles are awesome by the way her face lights up as she talks about them. In this case, her face had glowed with that secret of giving away a cool location that few canoe paddlers venture to this location. I made a mental note. I looked at the location on the map several times in those long winter months of planning but we never had made it that far to the East in the park. I had even gone by bike on one trip to the Weerribben to recon the location but had never found a launch point.
When we found that the Dutch Open Canoe Fest was very crowded on and off the water this past weekend, we headed to this new location with fingers crossed that we might find a launch point.
One of the most adventurous parts of any canoe paddling trip, to me, is locating the/a launch point. Many are hidden from view, only known by locals or, in some cases, they just don’t exist. When they don’t exist it can make your plan for paddling that day fall apart instantly or become very creative as to how to place your vessel in the water.
We were lucky on Saturday, we didn’t have to get creative. We found a launch site I had missed on all my other trips to that same parking lot. A nice boat launch and canoe platform was clearly visible.
We unloaded and headed out against a strong wind that bounced Cedar along the water and made our paddle muscles bark from the lack of use this summer. There were two kayakers who had launched just prior to us and then headed quickly back, passed us going in the opposite direction. They told the Hubby that they didn’t want to be on the ship canal. Ok, we thought, but there is a nice lake and that is where we were heading.
We crossed the busy ship canal. Enduring a strong head wind on the canal we paddled hard to the other side and then ducked under the bike bridge to enter the lake. Oh, what a dream! A well hidden small lake with vegetation along the entire shoreline with not one soul or boat of any sort to be found! Awesome!
I silently thanked Petra for this location tip as we glided across the mirrored water. The lake was calm in the protection of the trees and vegetation. We commented to each other that this was like something we could find in Northern Minnesota. A catch in my throat, as I thought about missing an entire paddling season this year in my beloved canoe country of Minnesota. So thankful, that we have some beautiful spots here in The Netherlands to paddle.
Petra had told us that there was a canal that exited the lake on the other side. We had seen the exit point on the map. Although, looking across the lake we couldn’t spot it from where we sat. We stopped at an old dock and turned on our GPS to help us locate the exit point. Again, we experienced a flashback of paddling in Minnesota as we had this same issue in the BWCA three years ago. It all looked the same, just tall reeds and woods. Even looking at the tops of the trees, a skill I use sometimes to determine where the river runs out of a lake in Minnesota (usually a break in the skyline), I couldn’t determine where it could be on this Dutch lake.
We paddled in the direction that the GPS gave us, just as we neared the shoreline it was revealed, a canal that was only about canoe wide. Again, “awesome” escaped my lips.
As we paddled along, the weeds seemed to want to keep this location secret. We were slapped in the face with their overreaching branches and pulled aside by the long leaves. As we paddled deeper and deeper into this canal we did wonder if we would just disappear into the reeds never to be found again. Mostly we wondered how we would get the canoe turned around to go back.
As the front paddler, I made sure that the Hubby didn’t have to get spider webs in his face. I cleared the way forward through the jungle of green. It seems that spiders think this is a great place to catch insects to eat and some of those webs almost caught a human. What a surprise that spider would have had!
I was having fun. I think the Hubby was too but he really likes things all laid out for him and isn’t as adventurous as myself (I think), so I won’t speak for him. I do think that the branch that snapped him was unpleasant…
The GPS kept telling us that the ship canal was close and that we would soon enter it again. We stopped when we finally “eye balled” the ship canal and then determined our next plan for the paddle day. We would head towards Kalenberg and then take a canal that heads towards Nederland.
Again, I have been in this location many times on the bike but never with the canoe. As we headed into this new canal was a bit busier. We paddled a short ways into the canal and then found a nice place to stop to have a break and to make a plan for our return trip.
The place we stopped was a old boat house where there were canoes, SUPs, and boats parked. Beautiful wild orchids grew along the edges of the canal. We were just far enough off the main canal we could secretly watch other paddlers and boats go speeding by.
We had such a good time going through the weeds the first time that we decided to take the same way back. We had already cut a path with the canoe and I had captured all the spider webs along the path. So why not?
It was a much faster paddle on the return. The wind at our back, the path well clear of vegetation and spiders. The front paddler that sometimes listens to the Hubby’s instructions about what is needed at the front of the boat was mostly silent on the return trip.
(spoiler alert: another blog post will be totally dedicated to paddler partner communication).
We returned to the spot at the launch and were happy with the location we had just paddled and added it to one of our favorites.
We were finally “Out of the Weeds”, but really sometimes being in the “weeds” is the best way to find out what is really going on or to find something special like we did this past weekend.
Later in the day, when I spoke with Petra, I told her what a nice paddle we had and where we had gone. I saw, once again, her face light up from her memories of that secret location. Thanks to Petra and to all those great paddle adventurers who share their secret canoe paddling locations. You keep all the rest of us dreaming and then experiencing them ourselves. 😊
Do you have great paddle location that you share with friends? We would love to hear about it in the comments below.
As always it is sad to see the end to another Dutch Open Canoe Festival. Seeing old paddling friends, making new ones and always the learning that goes with new ideas or new techniques.
This year that included learning what each of us considered acceptable risk just to attend. What about bathrooms? Where should we stay as the event brings people from all around Europe and most of all can we still interact with old canoe paddle buddies and still maintain our distance. What challenges!
I will write a detailed blog later this week on our experiences from the weekend but promised two young paddlers that I would post a few pictures. To keep my promise before this old canoe paddler takes a nap to recover from so much excitement over the weekend here you go young people.😊
Best wishes and safe a healthy travels to everyone who attended. Until next season.😊
With the 1.5 meter social distancing and reservations for attendance the yearly Dutch Canoe Fest will be held again this year in the National Park Weerribben.
This is a yearly gathering of canoe enthusiasts from all over Europe. Many of the canoe paddlers in attendance bring vast experience levels and different canoe techniques. This is one of the very few canoe events offered in The Netherlands and is a great way to connect with European canoe paddlers. Attendance at the event it is possible to learn about all the possibilities of canoeing in The Netherlands.
Follow the link and join us in attending this year in this beautiful location.