A World First Canoe Expedition: 2,954 miles from the Atlantic to Black Sea

Described as 'the most comprehensive crossing of Europe by canoe ever', the Canoeing the Continent Expedition in 2013 saw James and friend, Nathan Wilkins, paddle through ten different countries across Europe from west to east via uninterrupted waterways. The 2,954 mile journey took four and a half months to complete, finishing with a 250-mile walk to Istanbul. The expedition did have its own dedicated website, however, much of this information can now be found summarised below. If you have more questions then don't be afraid to get in touch.


The very origins of the expedition came from James' experience paddling the river Yukon in 2010; after which he set his sights on a similar, larger scale trip. Reading about cross-continental trips in North America provided inspiration, but it was only after further research that the possibility of crossing Europe became apparent. Europe has never received the same attention from Canadian canoe enthusiasts as North America, the home of the sport, and creates various different challenges: There are numerous international borders, fewer rivers and lakes, longer portages and stricter shipping regulations. The route James and Nathan followed was a network of rivers and canals, included hundreds of miles travelled upstream, as well as challenging coastlines and industrial transport routes. They took the North American continent-crossing concept and applied it to Europe during an era when, despite these challenges, its complete navigation by canoe finally seemed possible.

The Route

A list of the rivers: Loire | Canal Lateral a la Loire | Canal Du Centre | Saône | Doubs | Largue | Canal Du Rhone Au Rhin | Grand Alsace Canal | Old Rhine | Rhine | Main | Regnitz | Main-Donau Canal | Altmühl | Danube | Danube-Black Sea Canal | Black Sea.


The expedition was the first of its kind and the first time the mainland continent had been crossed in a canoe via uninterrupted waterways – each river paddled runs directly into the next. Both in the UK, Europe and internationally the expedition received extensive press coverage. Some articles were in print only and a whole host can be found simply by searching on google, but here is a sample collection of a few online stories…

The Daily Mail First-time canoeist and friend paddle almost 3,000 miles across Europe from France to Istanbul
- The Daily Star Students break world record becoming first to canoe across ten countries [sic]
- Canoeist Magazine Undercurrents
- Canoe Roots Magazine Canoeing a continent
- The National Student Warwick graduates embark on epic journey

James and Nathan also kept a long-running blog, as well as writing weekly articles for TIBS news. Their blogs were later translated into German for adventure magazine Abenteuer Wege.

TEDx Haileybury


Blogs & Social Media

Read and explore the full Canoeing the Continent blog HERE.
Read and explore the more alternative, humous blog posts HERE.
Follow the Canoeing the Continent Twitter account or browse pictures from the expedition on Instagram.

Advice, Resources & FAQs

An important part of the Canoeing the Continent website was to provide further advice and information for like minded people. Much of that same information can now be found by following links to the relevant pages below. If you plan on canoeing some of the rivers on James and Nathan's route then we hope this helps. Do bear in mind that this information reflects our knowledge from 2013 and should not be held to account today. Another extremely useful source of information is the British Canoe Union's Fifty Touring Rivers of Europe document or, for those wanting to paddle in the UK, their file on 100 Paddles in EnglandIf you want to go the whole hog, you can even read James and Nathan's full 62-page report on the trip, which goes into great detail about their experiences on each river.


James and Nathan's heartfelt thanks goes out to all those who helped in the planning of the expedition as well as to the many, many people who gave their time along the way. In particular, however, the trip could not have happened without the sponsorship and aid of four key groups: The University of Warwick's Lord Rootes Memorial Fund, Stevenage-based retailer and online store Countryside Ski & Climb, the knowledgeable canoe and kayak folk at Kent Canoes and the enthusiastic aid of Mobile Solar Chargers. Thank you.