Best Boats for Rivers
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Tatie in kayak White Spacer The pirate Tattie Boggle thinks rivers are interesting because they can be very different from each other. Some are so narrow you could throw a stone across. Some are a mile wide. Some are calm and move slowly. Some are swift and dangerous. Compared to the deep blue sea, almost all rivers are shallow and they require different kinds of boats.

Ship aground

Most ocean-going ships are too big to sail on rivers. They would run into sandbars or rocks or the bottom of a river and get stuck like the ocean liner shown above. Boats made for shallow water, like the tow boat and the barges it is pushing, sail right over most underwater hazards.

Punt on Thames White Spacer Here are examples of boats that are perfect for rivers.

The boat at left is called a punt. It has a flat bottom and is moved along by a person who stands and sticks the end of a long pole to the river bottom and pushes. Punts don't go very fast, but this kind of boating is fun and peaceful and makes no pollution.

Scull White Spacer A racing scull is a narrow rowboat that glides easily along the quiet waters of the Thames. These boats are used for exercise and racing. They come in different lengths for 1, 2, 4, or 8 rowers. Racing sculls are very tricky to balance and are designed to go fast in a straight line.

This woman in this picture is rowing with long oars. The blades of her oars are in the water.

Kayak White Spacer Kayaks are shorter and wider than sculls and are easy to turn. The passenger sits lower, inside the scull, making this boat more stable and very popular for racing down fast moving rivers. These are on the Fox River in Wisconsin.

Kayak paddles have a blade at both ends.

canoe White Spacer Canoes are great for rivers, streams, and small lakes; however, this one is in the Grand Canal in Venice!

Canoe paddles have a blade at one end and a handle at the other.

launch White Spacer Another boat you might see on the Thames River is this launch. It has an electric motor. The motor is quiet and it moves the boat smoothly.

narrowboat White Spacer Narrowboats travel around England through a network of canals and can sometimes be found on rivers. This one is on the Severn River. These boats have to be narrow in order to fit in locks along the canals. Usually they have a diesel engine.

Outboard Racers White Spacer Some people like to go a bit faster on the river. These racing boats on the Mosel River in Germany use outboard motors. They are noisy and fast and fun to watch.

Steamboat White Spacer Many years ago in America, before there were highways and automobiles, one of the best ways to travel was by steam boat. Steam engines turned large paddle wheels on the sides or stern of these boats carrying people and goods up and down the rivers.

There aren't many steamboats on America's rivers anymore. The few still in use carry passengers. But there is still plenty of cargo being shipped on rivers.

Tow

Almost anything can be put on flat-bottomed boats called barges. Barges can be tied together into groups called tows and then pushed along by powerful boats called tow boats. Here are 15 barges full of coal being pushed up the Ohio River. Tow boats are powered by huge diesel engines.

Questions about rivers and river boats:
Which is your favorite river boat and why? Is there a river near you? What is its name? What kinds of river boats do you see on your river?

What river boat can move heavy things up or down a river?

I am made to race fast on a river. I am hard to balance and may tip over. What kind of boat am I?

I am a boat that is too big for a river. I might get stuck on the bottom. What am I?

Many cities are built on the edge of rivers. Is there one near you? What is its name?

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2014 Jerry Jindrich. All rights reserved. Revised 1/25/2016.


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