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When my wife and I first got a pedal boat we were over the moon about it. We had ordered it online and, once it was unceremoniously dumped in our front yard we realized a few things: we didn’t know how pedal boats worked, we didn’t know how to transport our pedal boat anywhere and, more importantly, we didn’t know where we could go pedal boating anyway!
We though it might have been a bit hasty to order a pedal boat since we live in the Utah dessert but we soon learned that there are tons of places to go!
You can use your pedal boat anywhere that non-motorized boats are allowed. While pedal boats are typically built for calm waters, people enjoy using them on ponds, lakes, rivers, and even on the ocean. Most towns have multiple pedal boating spots available but be sure to check you local regulations before setting out.
We though back to where we had seen kayak and canoes with the assumption that, if they could be there, so could we. We were right, but we quickly learned that just because we were legal doesn’t mean that we were choosing the best pedal boating locations.
Can I Use A Pedal Boat On A River?
One of the most famous fly-fishing rivers in the western united states (the Provo River) passes within 500 feet of where I grew up. Naturally I spent a lot of time as a kid making rafts, floating sticks, and setting sail in those Walmart-special rubber rafts.
So when we got a pedal boat I naturally wanted to drop it in and see if you can pedal boat in a river.
Pedal boats can used in rivers provides the current is under 4mph and there is minimal debris or obstacles. Pedal boats move and steer slowly so those who take them on rivers needs to be cautious and avoid the main currents where possible.
There are, however, a few issues with using a pedal boat in a river (and I wouldn’t suggest it for beginners). For example:
- Pedal boats are slow. Pedal boats are not known for their speed. If you are in a fast-moving current (either a tide or a river current) it can be very difficult to maintain the direction and control of the boat.
- Pedal boats don’t steer well. If you see a rock coming, heaven help you get out of the way. Unlike a kayak, pedal boats really only steer when moving forward (and slowly at that) which makes it very difficult to avoid things.
- Pedal boats take on water. If a pedal boat takes on too much water over the side (or if anything debris hits the drain plug or becomes entangled in the paddle) it’s easy for the boat to get swamped. The faster or rougher the river is, the more likely this becomes.
- You can only go one way. The best thing about pedaling a boat around a pond or lake is that, when you’re tired, you can just head back to your car. Not so on a river. Pedaling back up the river is typically out of the question which means that you’ll need a place to get out and transport when you decide to get out of the river.
So, if you want to pedal boat in a river, it is possible, but please use some caution.
Can You Use A Pedal Boat In Salt Water?
The Great Salt Lake (the only “ocean” we have here in Utah is around 10x saltier than the ocean. While many people enjoy boating and kayaking on the lake, I’ve never tried it and probably won’t anytime soon.
Pedal boating is salt water is possible but comes with a couple challenges. Pedal sit low in the water and are designed for smooth water, making the unsuitable for pedaling on the ocean. Additionally, salt water is extremely corrosive to the paddle and pedaling mechanisms, potentially harming your boat.
So, if you do respond to the urge to put your pedal boat in salt water, there are a few things you can do to make sure everything plays out in your favor.
- Don’t leave your boat in the water. Hopefully, you don’t store your pedal boat in the water. However, this is even more important if it’s in briny water. The longer it is in the water, the more corrosion can attack your boat.
- Rinse your boat with fresh water. Once you get your boat out of the water, get the salt off of it as soon as you can. It is especially important to get it off of the underside of the boat where the paddle mechanism is located as it has the greatest possibility of being damaged (as its metal).
- Beware waves. I love spending time on the ocean (my wife is from the Washington coast) but, when we’re on the water, it’s usually in a kayak. The waves and the distances we try to cross typically mean that a pedal boat is not at home on the ocean. Waves could easily swamp your boat, essentially leaving you stranded if you don’t have a pump or easy way to bail it out.
General Guidelines As To Where You Can Pedal Boat:
Pedal boats are awesome because it means that most bodies of water are fair game. When you’re out and about, simply keep your eyes open for ponds or lakes where you see any sort of craft out on the water.
In general, pedal boats do not have to be registered and are considered to be in the same class as kayaks and canoes. This means that we have been able to put our pedal boat in park ponds, fishing ponds, etc.
This is also the reason that I discourage most casual pedal boaters from adding a trolling motor to their boat. As soon as you have one you can no longer put in where “non-motorized boats only” are allowed (even if you don’t use the trolling motor).
As pedal-boating spots have far less coverage from media and online, try searching for spots near you where you canoe or kayak. 9 times out of 10 those places will be fine for your pedal boat too!
Once you find places near you to pedal boat, please, be an awesome boater. Keeping your distance from fisherman, other boats, etc. keeps everyone happy and allows pedal boaters to keep enjoying all of our local waters. See you out there!
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