Jaques Moosteau

Eddy’s Got Answers on swimming moose, whitewater parks and crafting a paddle

Illustration by Aaron McKinney

Ask Eddy, the beloved boating guru in Canoe & Kayak’s print magazine, has come to life on the website. This story featured in the July 2007 issue and was written by Frederick Reimers and Sam Moulton.

I heard that moose can dive 18 feet underwater. True?

Full disclosure: In his younger days, Eddy once jumped from his canoe onto the back of a moose swimming across a lake, deeming it a low-risk maneuver because the moose, busy swimming, certainly wouldn’t be able to kick, bite, or otherwise maim him. Wrong. According to Dr. Terry Bowyer of Idaho State University, that moose could actually have dived out from beneath him, leaving young Eddy vulnerable to a swift hoof to the teeth. “In Maine, I saw a bull moose dive completely underwater in the middle of a lake,” says Bowyer. In much the same way that a whale sounds, the moose sank first his head and antlers, elevated his rump, and sank underwater. No one knows how deep the moose go, he says, in their quest for tasty underwater weeds, although they’ve been observed holding their breath for as long as 50 seconds. But the really bizarre thing about the beasts, Eddy learned, is how wildly attractive bull moose urine is to lady moose. During the rut, the bulls make a pit, urinate in it, roll in the pit, and voila, moose groupies. “You can see them running from all directions,” says Bowyer, whose department is currently studying the urine’s chemical composition. Always looking for an edge in the dating game, Eddy tried the same tactic in the parking lot of Crate and Barrel, but, sadly, only attracted the state police.

Kayakers bulldozed a bunch of rocks into our river to make better waves. What do the fish think of this?

A: Eddy’s no ichthyologist, but here’s what the fish were probably thinking: swim, swim, swim, I’m gonna eat that bug, swim, swim, SWEET JESUS, WHAT IS THAT THING? IT’S HUGE AND YELLOW!!! IT’S GOING TO KILL ME!!! That’s just a guess though. Here’s what Eddy does know: more than 40 whitewater parks have been built around the country in the last decade, all by installing boulders in stream beds, using backhoes. While it’s pretty shocking for most nature lovers to see a 10-ton machine driving around the riverbed, it should be noted that this is the same stream restoration method used by most hydrologists and wildlife managers to create the eddies and pools fish like. Fish habitat restoration projects in Pueblo, Colorado, and Farmington, New Mexico, for example, were modified by the Army Corps of Engineers during construction to suit the needs of both paddlers and fish. According to Jonah Drescher, a guide for Steamboat Fly Fisher in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, his town’s whitewater park hasn’t hurt the fishing any. “The deep pool and hydraulic in the park help during low water because it gives the trout a place to stay cool,” he says. “It also helps in a cold winter because those pools don’t freeze solid.” While he doesn’t advocate casting for lunkers during the high spring runoff—when there are too many kayaks flopping around—he regularly takes clients to the park in the late summer and fall when the kayakers have all migrated elsewhere.

How hard is it to make my own canoe paddle?

“If you can write your name and tie your shoes, then you can make your own paddle,” says Mike Schelmeske, who teaches paddle-making workshops at Minnesota’s North House Folk School. “All you really need are a few hand tools.” Schelmeske’s students typically shape their sticks in a few afternoons, using only spoke shaves and low-angle block planes. (A few winters back, Eddy carved his trusty beavertail out of Tanzanian Tambootie wood. Here’s a tip: Work in the garage, to keep the Scotch cold and sawdust out of the house.) If you’re making yours at home, you’ll need a jig or band saw to cut out the blank, a way to secure the paddle while you work on it (a C-clamp, piece of scrap wood, and picnic table is the simplest solution) and the hand tools of your choice. The biggest decision is selecting your raw material: softwoods like cedar or spruce tend to fray and aren’t as durable, whereas hardwoods like maple or ash are heavier and harder to work with but make for a sturdier paddle. Need more guidance? Get yourself a copy of Graham Warren and David Gidmark’s “Canoe Paddles: A Complete Guide to Making Your Own,” sign up for one of Schelmeske’s classes (northhousefolkschool.com), or stop by Eddy’s geodesic dome anytime after 11 a.m. with a bottle of Yukon Jack.

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