The thin blue line that winds irregularly across your topo map suggests a wild Canadian river -- no picnic tables, fire grates or intersecting roads. To get there, you'll have to charter a float plane!
Questions? How do I locate an air service? What planes are available and what do they cost? Must I pay cash or can I use a credit card? How many flights will I need to ferry everyone and everything to the river?
Relax -- it's easy to charter a float plane. All you need is a telephone and money!
WHERE TO BEGIN Everyone is on the Internet now: just type "charter float planes" (or specify the state or province) and you'll be deluged with choices. Or, write or call the tourist bureau in the state province of your interest and request a list of charter companies. Might as well get a road map, list of motels and documented canoe routes. Everything's free.
Phone or fax (charter outfits are often slow in answering mail) the air company(s) that service the area in which you plan to canoe. Explain your needs and ask the dispatcher to compute costs -- including "canoe tie-on fees" (about $100/canoe) and taxes.
FLOAT PLANE FACTS
*Pay loads decrease considerably with a canoe on board.
COMMIT IN WRITING
Book your flight with a letter of commitment that restates the facts. If you're arranging a July flight in January, ask if the company will hold their quoted price against fare increases. They may do so if you agree to pay in cash or certified check and/or provide a non-refundable deposit. Generally, charter air companies love paddlers because, unlike their bread-and-butter clients, (who usually take at least a month to pay), canoeists pay in full before they board the aircraft!
If you've never chartered a float plane, you may balk at the high price. Indeed, even a short flight may rival the cost of a round-trip jet to Paris! Nonetheless, when you consider the small pilot /passenger ratio, and the fact that you decide where and when to fly, it's a fair deal.
The average Canadian bush plane is decades old. Better ride one now before they disappear, like the wild rivers we love to canoe.
Cliff Jacobson is a professional canoe guide and outfitter for the Science Museum of Minnesota, a wilderness canoeing consultant, and the author of more than a dozen top-selling books on camping and canoeing. www.cliffcanoe.com
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