Canoeing the Faaker See
Words: Ian Finch // Photography: Ian Finch & Daniel Hug
My mind was half in a dream state, lost in anticipation of the beautiful day ahead. A 16ft canoe, a rucksack of kit, and two wooden paddles lay at my feet.
Standing on the sandy shore I lowered my sunglasses to look out over the mirror-glass lake. While looking for a safe route across, my mind was half in a dream state, lost in anticipation of the beautiful day ahead. A 16ft canoe, a rucksack of kit, and two wooden paddles lay at my feet. Austrian native Daniel was dragging his canoe forward, feet crunching on the gravelly shore as he pulled his canoe into position. There were no ripples in the calm as I scanned the lake.
After rolling up my cargo trousers, I walked out into the glacial water, up to my shins, until the canoe could support its weight. As Dan pulled alongside me we sat down and nudged out past the pontoon and into the vast serenity of the Faaker See.
We had travelled from the highlands of Millstatt down into the flat valley of the Drau River, which spans most of Carinthia. Some 60km from Millstatt rests the dreamy 3km body of water named Faaker See. Flanked by mountains on one side, lowland river systems and reed beds on the other, this tranquil glacial lake is renowned as an Austrian wonder. After arriving at the eastern corner we’d selected our open Canadian canoes from the Kajak Canoe Centre. Our plan was to paddle from the east side of the lake through the afternoon to explore its northern end and the myriad river channels: a straightforward return journey of no more than three hours.
Muscles working in a steady rhythm, we swept across the lake at a leisurely pace and approached the famous reed beds towards the northern end. Idyllic wooden-fronted hotels and sail boats decorated the tree line above, and children jumped from pontoons, whooping with joy, into the water. I could clearly see through the surface to the rippled lake bottom beneath us. As we manoeuvered our canoes into the river channels, lined with reed beds, we had to weave and duck while navigating tight, snaking turns. The reeds and other foliage reached high above our heads, cutting us off from our surroundings, enclosing us into this exciting journey.
Too soon, we reaching the end of the reed passage at a small bridge. There we turned and retraced our paddle strokes back up the channel and into the main waters of the lake, an hour-long exploration. This variation from the open-water canoeing gave our journey the feel of a mini expedition.
As we paddled back across Faaker See and towards our finish point, I let Dan move out ahead. Letting my canoe drift to a stop I used this moment to take in the lake and its surrounding beauty. The forest-lined mountains, the crystal depths of the glacial lake, and the dripping of water from the paddle – each element added to the greater depth of this small yet wonderful journey. Canoeing on Faaker See is an experience enhanced by Austria’s natural wonders. It’s a journey fit for all and for those seeking an accessible day’s adventure. Faaker See is just waiting to be explored – especially by canoe.