Canoeing in Poland: The River Biebrza

The river Biebrza meanders through pleasantly unspectacular but beautiful scenery some 50 miles west of the Polish/Belarus border. Safe from most canoeing tourists that rather scrimmage on one of the Mazuria lakes, you can hang out on the water without seeing hordes of noisy paddlers for days. And that means that the farmers that live scattered along the river have no one but you to project their hospitality and friendliness onto.

I admit, our trip was at the end of September, a time of year no one in his/her right mind would plan a trip like this. At least, this is what the local people told us. If you plan a trip that late, a warm sleeping bag is a good thing to bring along. During the day, though, we had the most beautiful warm and sunny two weeks of probably the entire fall.

Close to Stabin, which is a good starting point for a tour, the river is narrow and the banks are heavily overgrown by reed. Camping is only allowed in designated areas that mostly belong to one of the local farmers. There is a slight chance that he will show up to collect a couple of zlotys per tent or per person and stay for a little chat. Oftentimes you can buy vast amounts of firewood for a little cash. Careful, by the way: contrary to what most people told us, here in the far east of the country the Euro is of no worth.

Further downstream the river widens, the views of the wide grassland and distant birch forests are less sparse and chances of finding a well equipped campground or a bed and breakfast in one of  the villages are pretty high. We stayed in a small and super cosy apartment in Dolistowo which belonged to a talkative mechanic. The villages also offer an opportunity to stock up on groceries and water.

When entering the Biebrza National Park you will be all by yourself again except for the bellowing elk that might wake you up and/or irritate you at night and the cows that might wake you up when passing your tent shortly after sunrise.

The tour ends just shortly after the Biebrza flows into the Narew river. Pickups can be arranged from here.

By: Christoph Sahle