Path of the Paddle


200 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-919493-38-6






Reviewed by Diana McElroy

Diana McElroy was a computer programmer in Deep River, Ontario.


Originally published in hardcover in 1980, Path of the Paddle has become a widely read and highly respected authority on canoeing, both in Canada and in the United States. This softcover edition, differing from the original only in its binding, makes a valuable reference available at a lower price.

Mason concentrates on recreational whitewater canoeing in an open canoe, mainly in a wilderness setting. A large part of the book is devoted to detailed discussion of paddle strokes and other canoeing techniques, starting with basic flatwater paddling. Mason also describes the behaviour of water in rapids and how it can be analyzed through observation. He is very frank about the potential dangers of whitewater canoeing, and goes to considerable lengths to explain what could happen and what precautions the canoeist must take. The text is illustrated with several hundred black-and-white photographs, numerous diagrams, and a section of colour plates. There is a good bibliography and a list of addresses of wilderness preservation organizations.

Path of the Paddle is an excellent book. Mason covers his subject thoroughly and his advice is always sound, though some experienced whitewater canoeists might dispute some points of style. The text is very readable, filled with the author’s enthusiasm and humour, and rich with stories of his own and others’ experiences. The design is attractive, the black-and-white illustrations are clear and instructive, and the colour plates make one long to be on a wilderness river. The quality of this new printing is every bit as good as the original.

This book is not a manual for novices, but it provides an excellent starting point for the would-be whitewater canoeist. For those already involved in whitewater canoeing, it is a gold mine of information and pleasure.


Mason, Bill, “Path of the Paddle,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 3, 2021,