Idleness, Water, and a Canoe: Reflections on Paddling for Pleasure

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University of Toronto Press, 1997 - Sports & Recreation - 299 pages
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In the spring of 1940, subscribers to Queen's Quarterly read that the 'ingredients of a holiday in Canada are idleness, water, and a canoe.' This statement bears witness to the enduring importance of the canoe generations after the decline of the North American fur trade. Jamie Benidickson explains that the canoe's merit lies not strictly in its function as a transportation vehicle, but in its promise of unrestricted mobility, leisure, and independence. Idleness, Water, and a Canoe is a study of the place of the canoe in Canadian life, with comparative references to the United States and Britain. A blend of history, economic analysis, technical information, and social commentary, it examines the rise of the canoe's popularity and its influence on leisure activity, economics and tourism, and literature and advertising in this country.

Drawing on books, newspaper articles, original records, unusual ephemera, and interviews with paddlers, the author describes the evolution and cultural significance of two centuries of recreational paddling. He explores why canoeists have constantly sought new summer waterways, how they have practised their craft, and how much influence paddling for pleasure has had on them and on the societies in which they live. The many facets of recreational paddling are illustrated and described in a series of reflections on subjects ranging from the paddler's quest for physical and emotional renewal to what the future holds for voyageurs and their sport. Benidickson also discusses the evolution of canoe design and manufacturing, the formation of canoe clubs and organizations, the economics of recreational travel, and the paddler's role in environmental protection.

Not only will this book appeal to those interested in history, sociology, aesthetics, geography, and sports and leisure studies, but its broad scope and accessible style will recommend it to the many outdoor enthusiasts who plan yearly canoeing trips.


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About the author (1997)

Jamie Benidickson is an associate professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa, and co-author of The Temagami Experience.

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