Southern Germany is the place to be for canoe camping. For all skill levels there’s a proper tour available: starting from splashy mountain rivers to quite watercourses. Especially the infrastructure in Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg is quite attractive for paddlers: sleeping next to the river is equally easy as arrival, transfer or crossing dams.

A boat – whether this is a canoe, a Canadian or a kayak doesn’t matter – a tent and some waterproof vessel with the right clothes and provisions: that’s all you need for a successful boat tour lasting several days. This experience of nature is unique, though. Paddling on the water offers a very new angle of the surrounding nature.

Planning the right tour for canoe camping

If you’re scheduling a multi-day canoe tour in southern Germany, you can choose from several possibilities – from hard to cozy. The tour routes with their level of difficulty can be checked both online and in different boat guidebooks. Please keep in mind to set up realistic goals.

The next step is to plan each day in more detail. How many kilometers you can cover a day depends, first, on whether you want to rush down the river or you prefer to comfortably flow along with the stream, and, second, your kind of boat as well as the current velocity of the river. Anyway, it’s always best to schedule some time extra.

Also interesting: How to paddle the Canadian Canoe

Kanu mit zwei Kanufahrern auf dem Fluss.

How to sleep when travelling with a canoe

If you’re touring with a canoe for several days sleeping in a tent is the most obvious solution. Even though camping wild is forbidden by law in Germany, there’re many splendid camping-sites located next to most of the rivers.

  • Camping-sites
    If there’s a nice area next to the water, a camping-site is usually not far off. And if this place is close to a river, there’s almost always a pier or even a boat rental. For paddlers there can’t be any better comfort – both sanitary facilities and restaurants are at hand. Unfortunately, the experience of nature isn’t that predominant
  • Rest stops for boats
    There’re many rest stops for boats alongside highly frequented rivers too. Typically, those places are not that fancy, and the area is close-to-nature: an ordinary meadow for the tents next to the water, a little sanitary facility and a tap to pour water. Most of those rest stops are entirely free. Yet, there are some you have to pay for – a groundskeeper will check each day and charges about 5€ a night.
  • DKV canoe point
    Many canoe clubs do offer accommodation on their ground for people travelling with a canoe. Condition: you have to be a member of the Germany Canoe Association (DKV). Plus: you better sign up beforehand. Anyway, the odds are good that there are several like-minded people you can have a good laugh with. Contacts and guide-books can be found online: Bavarian canoe association; Baden-Wuerttemberg canoe association.

Also interesting: Feel-good campsites in Germany

Tour 1: Travelling on Altmühl river from Gunzenhausen to Beilngries with a canoe

Paddling on the Altmühl river is quite relaxed. It’s the slowest of rivers in Bavaria and, thus, it’s highly appropriate for unexperienced travelers or even for kids.

Along the tour there are camping sites as well as rest stops for boats offering a cheap place for the night. Those places are quite close which makes it easy to schedule your daily distance spontaneously. In addition, there’re boat rentals next to all the popular starting points. Further information for paddling on the Altmühl river can be found on the following website: Naturpark Altmühltal.

Tour 2: Canoe camping on Isar river from Sylvensteinsee to Thalkirchen

This tour is a 72-kilometer-long stretch from Lenggries to the south of Munich. The flow speed of Isar river is fairly high making it easy to cover around 25 kilometers a day. Due to that you should reach your destination within three day. But, considering these circumstances, this tour is only recommendable for experienced canoeists or with a guide. There are many tour operators nearby providing the necessary equipment as well.

The trip on the Isar river is rewarded with stunning views along the way, which is the outcome of the last years’ renaturalization efforts. The turquoise blue water of Isar river – especially in spring after the thaw – can be highly mesmerizing. Information about boat rentals, accommodations etc. can be found here: canoe-info-Isar.

Yet, if you’re paddling on Isar river you must consider many aspects since there’re some difficult spots to cross. Especially uprooted trees can become quite hazardous for the flow might press canoeists into the branches. If you’re trapped within some of those, it’s almost impossible to fight the current yourself. And, equally problematic, you can’t paddle of downstream. It might happen that you’re pressed under the water surface. It, unfortunately, happens again and again that paddlers putting themselves in danger need to be rescued by others.

Important: Always bypass uprooted trees in the river with some distance! It can become a life-threatening situation!

Due to the close proximity to Munich you’ll probably not be alone on a sunshiny day travelling on Isar river. However, some time ago the city of Munich tightened up the rules for paddlers on the river: air mattresses, little rubber rafts and additional ship’s boats are forbidden on the water. Plus, there’s a maximum alcohol level of 0,5 permille. Consequently, the infamous Munich boat parties of old probably won’t occur that often any longer.

Also interesting: Bivouacking – Sleeping under the stars

Tour 3: canoe camping tour from Hausen im Tal to Sigmaringen

The “young” Donau river running through Baden-Wuerttemberg is (at this point) a quite placid river. Which doesn’t mean it is boring there. The Donau’s riverside at Hausen im Tal consist of 200 meters of exposed cliffs from white Jurassic-limestone.

The reason for this particularly interesting area is the Swabian alp. “Donaudurchbruch” (Donau’s break through) ist the name of the region – and that is what is happening there: with its constant flow of water Donau has been cutting through the rocks of the uplands ever since and has created this spectacular landscape.

On the way from Hausen to Sigmaringen there are two camp sites, several fire pits and enough opportunities to stop at a restaurant. It’s quite obvious that this area is perfectly suited for traveling with a canoe. And, for those of you enjoying some solid ground beneath your feet once in a while, there are several sights surrounding the river as well. Numerous old stronghold and castle ruins tell the stories of the area’s ancient history.

Information concerning boat rentals, accommodations and anything else you need to know about traveling Donau river with a canoe can be found here: Tourismus-Info des Donautals.