Alan Schmidt canoeing on Swiftcurrent Lake at Many Glacier, Glacier National Park. Photo: Aaron Schmidt

By: Eugene Buchanan

Aaah, April Fool's Day. Which of us haven't fallen prey to some paddling prank thrust upon us by our peers? That rock in the back of your kayak, glue on your cockpit combing, un-latched drain plug or even report that a certain river is running when it's in fact bone dry.

Accepting those malfeasances for what they are – a shining example of the fun-loving nature and camaraderie of canoeists and kayakers – there's also a more serious side to the celebration. A little digging unearths examples from across the country of paddlers who use the day not to jest but to practice their J-strokes and other paddling skills out on the water. Following are a few clubs who carry the April Fool's Day torch high and proud (and whom, we're sure, practice a bit of fun-loving hoaxes en route).

Hoosier Canoe Club Annual April Fool's Day Paddle
Indiana's Hoosier Canoe Club organizes an April Fool's Day paddle every year, with this year marking the 37th anniversary of the affair. The usual haunt is a paddle on Big Pine Creek, no matter how low it is. Merry-makers dip their blades for about six miles, from Rocky Ford's S-Turn to Twin Bridges, to work out the winter cobwebs. Last year's float, which drew 30 paddlers in 28 boats, registered a bottom-rubbing 12″ on the Rainsville Gauge, but the flow was more than enough for everyone to have fun and pull pranks along the way. "In April we can usually count on the weather to let us really get out on Indiana’s rivers, lakes and streams," maintains the club's Sue Foxx in their monthly newsletter. "The Big Pine trip is usually a great trip for both whitewater and flatwater paddlers with mild rapids." Info:

Traverse City April Fool's Day Paddle
Where else but the Traverse City, Mich., area would people combine an April Fool's Day paddle with a polar bear plunge into the water? That's what you can expect every year with the Traverse Area Paddling Club's April Fool's Day Polar Bear Plunge. While last year's weather made it easier than most years with 82-degree temperatures, it's still a heart-rate-increasing rite of passage for area paddlers. The action takes place on Woodpecker Creek, where a10-mile, two-hour paddle leads revelers to Red Bridge and a bone-chilling dip in the river. Info:

Prairie State Canoeists' April Fool's Day Paddle
The Prairie State Canoeists also hold an annual early April paddling trip, usually somewhere on the Des Plaines River. Called the No Fooling April Fool's Goof Off Paddle, it's suitable for everyone from beginners to advanced paddlers, and open to anyone who wants to kick off the season on the right foot with a fun-filled paddle. Just be prepared to be the victim of an April Fool's prank or two. Info: