Paddling - FAQ

FAQ Prior to the Program


Where do paddling programs take place?

Our introduction to paddling courses, including both canoe and kayaks, typically take place at the Tenney Park Lagoon. This offers easy access from all over town and provides an ideal place to learn more about equipment, a few paddling strokes, and getting comfortable in a boat.

Paddling trips take place all over including local opportunities in town and longer trips out of town. Information about trips can be found on the MSCR website and in the MSCR Program Guide.


What typically happens during the Introduction Class?

Once everyone arrives we begin with an introduction to the equipment, including specific information and terminology associated with paddling. Afterwards you’re taught how to properly select a PFD and paddle that suits you. You’ll do some practice ‘air’ strokes on land then it’s time to hit the water. Once everyone is on the water instructors have a few activities to get you comfortable with paddling and keeping the boat balanced. Depending on time and how comfortable the group is we can take boats a short distance to the Tenney Park Locks to get the feel for a small current.


What kinds of trips do you offer?

We offer a range of different trip opportunities based on participant skill level, from beginner to full day paddling options. Beginner trips last around 2.5 hours, intermediate trips last around 3 hours, and full day trips may have you in a boat up to 5 hours. Be sure to read all information regarding trips, including meeting locations and travel details.


What if I’m not sure which trip is right for me?

If you’ve never paddled before we recommend you take an introduction class before a trip, we offer at least 2 at the beginning of every summer and fall. Beginner trips are perfect if you’ve only been in a boat once or twice. Intermediate trips we expect participants are comfortable with equipment and know basic paddling strokes. For full day trips we expect participants are comfortable paddling and have the stamina to paddle for a longer period of time. Breaks are given as needed, however it’s not always possible to get out of the boat and stretch, so be mindful of that for day trips.

If you have questions about any trips in particular and whether they are right for you, please don’t hesitate to be in touch with MSCR.   


What kind of boat will I be in?

MSCR has a fleet of both kayaks and canoes. Our canoes are durable metal Grumman canoes and the kayaks are Kestral recreational boats with a large cockpit and stable base. We do have one tandem kayak as well, in case participants need extra accommodation or help paddling. If you have a specific request for a boat you may include that information when registering and we will do our best to accommodate. There may also be opportunity during trips to switch boats, i.e. from a canoe to kayak or vice versa. Please be prepared to be flexible and share equipment.


Can I bring my own boat, paddle or PFD?

Sure! Please let us know if you plan to bring your own equipment when you register.


How does shuttling for trips work?

Prior to any trip the lead instructor will contact you at least 48 hours prior to the program. Depending on which trip you’re signed up for will depend on the meeting location and logistics associated with that specific trip. The shuttle is necessary when we have a separate put in and take out point, i.e. paddling downstream, and it’s necessary to leave a few cars at the take out to transport people back to their individual vehicles at the put in. There are also trips where participants can carpool together if traveling further distances. Be prepared to work with instructors to make the trip run smoothly, including working through logistics of carpooling and shuttling. This may require allowing other participants to ride in your vehicle or offering gas money for those who volunteer as drivers.


Are there age, weight or height restrictions?

For classes and trips we ask that participants are 16 years or older. There are no weight or height restrictions.


What if I have a group of people who want to go paddling, can we have our own trip?  

If you have a group of 8 or more people who would be interested in an introductory course or a trip can provide equipment and instruction. Currently trips are limited to those we offer in the program guide and we do not offer overnight trips, only day trips.

If you have a group that would be interested in their own paddling session or trip please contact the MSCR Recreation Specialist for Experiential Programs, Emily Peffer at or 608-204-4580.


Can I rent just a boat, paddle and PFD?

MSCR does not operate as an outfitter, therefore we cannot rent or loan out equipment. However if you’re interested in a class or program we can find ways to accommodate you.

Who are the instructors?

Paddling instructors are trained in American Canoe Association approved trainings for both canoes and kayaks and CPR. They come from a variety of different backgrounds ranging from professional rock climbing guides, school teachers, youth workers, etc. All instructors represent years of paddling experience in Madison and Wisconsin.  


How do I sign up?

The introductory courses and trips are all listed in the Summer and Fall program guide each year. You can register online here: or contact the Program Assistant for Paddling Programs, Lori Helker at or 608-204-3025.



How much do trips cost?  

Prices for programs in the guide range from $15 to $40 per person. Pricing for group outings is based on participant numbers and the specific trip. To get a price quote for a group program please contact the MSCR Experiential Programs Specialist, Emily Peffer, or 608-204-4580


FAQ The Day of the Program


What should I wear?

Plan to dress comfortably and for the weather in clothing that is okay to get wet and/or dirty. We advise you to avoid cotton unless paddling on a hot, summer day. You are required to have on shoes or sandals with a heel and toe, no flip flops or sandals without a heel strap. We also recommend having an extra, dry change of clothing to leave in your vehicle or at the take out site. Please remember that MSCR is not responsible for lost or damaged personal property on trips, so plan accordingly.


What should I bring with me to the program?

Our programs happen completely outdoors, so please be aware that anything you bring will be outside. We suggest that participants bring with them a full water bottle, sunglasses or hat, sunscreen, bug spray, and snacks/lunch as needed. Please remember that anything you’d like to keep with you for the trip will be in the boat and should be stored accordingly, i.e. connected to the boat by rope or carabiner.

Please remember that MSCR is not responsible for lost or damaged personal property on trips, so plan accordingly.


What happens in adverse weather? 

Our calendar for the outdoor course fills very quickly, therefore we make every attempt to maintain the program schedule. If threatening weather arises during your program instructors are mindful of the closest opportunity to get off the water. We immediately seek shelter in the case of thunder, lightning, torrential rain, or other immediately hazardous weather. If MSCR cancels a program due to weather we give as much notice as is reasonably possible and will either issue a refund or attempt to re-schedule the program.


What if something happens and I can’t attend the program?

If you have registered for a program and find you cannot attend we ask for you to let us know as soon as possible, to allow for participants on the waitlist an opportunity to take your spot. If you find that due to unforeseen circumstances you cannot attend a program the day of, staff will try to reach out to you to confirm your absence. If you are a no-show for a program and do not communicate with us we cannot issue a refund for your spot in the program. Cancellations can be discussed with Lori Helker, or 608-204-3025