Canoeing with Elephants

Wesley Deever of Mount Horeb WI, (former) site of the famous mustard museum, asks:

Is it safe to canoe near elephants?

If you are stinky, elephants are handy for a quick shower.

If you exercise reasonable caution, these gentle giants can actually enhance your canoeing experience. For instance,if you paddle right up next to them and tug on their ears, they will give you a shower bath. It is probably best to be sitting down for this. You can also judge the depth of the water, based on the amount of elephant showing above the surface.

A couple of points to remember, to keep your experience enjoyable:

  • Do not ram the point of the canoe into the elephant’s side. They may mistake you for a crocodile trying to bite them in the side. Crocodiles do not make this error twice.
  • Do not allow the elephant into the canoe. They are eager to play, and may misjudge the carrying capacity of your craft. Be firm.

Do not allow elephant into canoe.



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    • Hilary Moon Murphy on 25 January 2012 at 12:11 pm

    What! I cannot take elephants in my canoe? They’ll be so disappointed.

    • on 25 January 2012 at 12:55 pm

    It really is up to you. If you would like to have elephant passengers, you would just need a much larger and sturdier canoe than average. You might find that this presents some practical difficulties. For instance, if you try to carry such a canoe on your car, your visibility may be obstructed since it is larger than the car and would tend to overhang the windows. You would need six or seven people to carry it to the water. It can be difficult to maneuver in narrow waterways. And elephants can’t paddle very well, so you would have to do all the work.

    It’s also worth bearing in mind that elephants are ruminants, and like most of these, they are likely to poop when they need to poop, not necessarily exiting the canoe first. You would want to sit in front.*

    Also, elephants are really poor with rapids.

    So it’s a tradeoff. You decide whether it’s worth the trouble.

    * I attended a Cafe Scientifique recently where the speaker, a member of a local Dakota tribe, told us that his father’s name meant, “Do not stand in front of the black buffalo.” I wondered whether he might have an uncle named “Do not walk behind the black buffalo.” While I had better taste than to ask, I noted it down, determined to make use of it at the earliest possible opportunity, however tenuous the excuse. Because that’s what writers do.

    1. But if I will be canoeing with elephants, mightn’t I have them carry the canoe to the launch point, thereby obviating the need for a car in the first place?

        • Hilary on 27 January 2012 at 2:27 pm

        My thoughts exactly, Eli!


        • on 27 January 2012 at 6:16 pm

        Eli, you raise an interesting point. In all the cases that I’ve been canoeing with elephants, the elephants were already there in the river, not hanging around the launch where they might get harassed by drunks. I suppose if you bring your own elephant, you could use it as a beast of burden both to load and unload the canoe.

        Unfortunately, you can’t have an elephant and a native plant garden, and we chose the garden.

        And there is still the poop issue. Rebecca read this post and pointed out that the rear is the favorable position for paddling, so it’s a problem if you’re forced to sit in front as I suggest. She also suggested the elephant could face the rear of the craft so that you could converse while you paddle, but I think elephants prefer to be able to see where they’re going. Don’t you agree?

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