Canoecopia is the largest paddling sports exhibition. It is held yearly in Madison, Wisconsin and hosted by Rutabaga. Speakers, equipment retailers, and outfitters from all over the United States and Canada come to present their goods and services; concurrently, canoeists and kayakers from all over the area flock to the event.
What is Canoecopia?
The event concentrates on paddling, so it is not a Wisconsin centered event; however, since Wisconsin hosts the event, it is natural that the rivers, lakes, and streams in this beautiful state are well represented. The event also focuses on other outdoor sports as many paddlers cross-over into hiking and cross-country skiing, so it is no surprise to see the American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race or the 1,100 mile Ice Age Trail with a booth.
According to Darren Bush, owner of Rutabaga, the main purpose of Canoecopia is to provide information to paddlers on gear and equipment in order for them to make an educated decision on what to buy. I think an the most important aspect of Canoecopia is installing a burning desire to get outdoors for those that attend.
From the minute you pull into the Alliant Center and see canoes and kayaks on top of cars and cars painted with paddles and blue herons, it makes you want to keep driving to the Wisconsin River and put-in. This feeling intensifies with each booth visited, each frame of photography captured by a paddling presenter, and especially when you sign up for a canoeing club. This author signed up with the Prairie State Canoeists during the event.
It is a sensory overload for canoe and kayak lovers the moment you enter the building and even before. Bright yellow canoes piled on top of each other, paddles sticking up everywhere, and bright banners from places like Canada and northern Wisconsin assault the canoe enthusiast senses. Paddlers start to salivate the minute they step into the main display area – Pavlov would have been proud.
Speakers spoke about paddling Valhallas in Canada, the United States, and even in Greenland in rooms named after canoe destinations like Superior and Quetico. Morrall River Films showed video of the extensive Wisconsin River system to a packed house. Mark excitedly yelled out each river as its name lit up on the screen as if it was an old friend he had not seen in awhile. “The Popple River is a beautiful river,” he would exclaim as visions of canoeists would drift down a clear blue stream framed against a brilliant sky. Below is an example of one of their wonderful films.
After getting excited to paddle these rivers it was time to visit the booths and get some information. I talked with Brule River Canoe Rental and Door County Kayaking Adventures and made plans to visit them this summer. Then I walked over to the Ice Age Trail exhibit and was given great information on day hikes on the 1,100 mile trail.
Walking out of Canoecopia at 5:30pm I was exhausted and felt like I had canoed 20 miles. Drained from all the excitement of gear buying and with a head abuzz with the canoe and kayak plans for the year ahead I walked to my car. I would say I can’t wait until next year’s Canoecopia, but I can. I look forward to it, but I have a lot of paddling and hiking to do in between thanks to the inspiration gained here.
The goal of Traveling Ted is to inspire people to outdoor adventure travel and then provide tips on where and how to go. If you liked this post then enter your email in the box to get email notifications for each new entry. Daily travel photos are excluded from your email in order to not flood you with posts. There is no spam and email information will not be shared. Other e-follow options include Facebook (click on the like box to the right) or twitter (click on the pretty bird on the rainbow above).