Paddling POTUSs

Anyone who paddles knows the restorative value of being on the water. It turns out several presidents are among this group of wise human beings!

Most Recent:

The most recently recorded paddling pres is President Obama. In Hawaii, he was photographed on a paddle board and with Michelle paddling a tandem kayak (we hope their marriage can survive a tandem!). In another photo he is kayaking by himself in Massachusetts. (PFDs are missing in all photos. But I guess if you’re a president, the Secret Service is your Personal Floatation Device!).

Most Romantic:

The most romantic paddling president has to be President Reagan. For his and Nancy’s 25th wedding anniversary, he bought her a canoe called Tru Luv. Awww…

Most Traumatic:

The most traumatic presidential paddling story belongs to President Theodore Roosevelt. After losing his bid for a third term as president, he traveled to Brazil to take part in a risky expedition to chart a wild river in the Amazon jungle called Rio du Duvida, (River of Doubt, later renamed Roosevelt River). The journey was grueling. Traveling in dugout canoes, they were pursued by hostile native tribes as well as swarms of mosquitoes and biting flies. A member of the expedition drowned in a rapid. Roosevelt barely escaped a deadly coral snake bite (it penetrated his leather boot but didn’t break the skin). He sliced his leg on a rock, became delirious with infection and fever, and endured an emergency leg operation on the bank of the river. Although many of his fellow expedition members didn’t think he would, he survived the trip. But he never completely recovered from what he called his “old Brazilian trouble.”

Most Influential:

Finally, the most influential presidential paddling trip has to be President Jimmy Carter’s 1974 tandem canoe journey on the Chattooga River (yes, that’s the one from Deliverance) where he and Terry Claude, co-founder of American Rivers, completed the first ever descent of the Bull Sluice rapid in a tandem canoe. Although he’d grown up with an appreciation of nature and the environment, this experience showed him the importance of wild areas. Shortly after, as governor of Georgia, he enacted legislation designating all 57 miles of the Chattooga as Wild and Scenic, protecting it forever. NRS made an excellent short film about the trip:


I think the next presidential paddling story should be:

President and Dr. Biden Explore Their Home State’s Little Assawoman Bay by Kayak.

We know where they can rent one! What do you think, President Biden?

by Jenifer Adams-Mitchell

Information for this blog post came from:

The Wild President: Jimmy Carter and the Chattooga River

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