Poling, A Forgotten Method to Travel Upriver

Poling upriver above Manitou Falls on the Fond du Lac River in Northern Saskatchewan

If I just had a dollar for every time I’ve been told, “Never stand up in a canoe”. Everybody knows that, right?

Well, everybody is wrong.

If you stand in a canoe you should do so carefully, but I do it all the time. I stand up to get a better view of rapids downstream, I stand up to stretch my legs after hours of paddling, and I stand up to grab a 10 foot long pole and push myself upriver.

In the old days poling was a very common way to travel upriver, and you absolutely have to stand up to do it. Yes, you are going to flip a few times while learning to do this, but once mastered it’s a very efficient way to travel and amazing full bodied exercise.

Here’s a historical photo of A Revillion Frères fur trading company party heading upstream on the Sturgeon-Weir River in northern Saskatchewan, July 1912. They used a combination of paddling, wading and poking to get their heavily laden boats upriver. I guess someone forgot to tell the lifelong paddler in the first boat never to stand in a canoe 😉

(This photo was taken by Ernest Carl Oberholtzer on the epic journey to Hudson Bay that he and Billy Magee did via the Sturgeon-Weir, Churchill, Reindeer, Cochrane and Thlewiaza Ribers. The picture was published in the book Towards Magnetic North which is an amazing read if you’re interested in the history of The Land of Little Sticks.)

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