Paddling in the Czech Republic

Czech Republic, April/May 2002

by Richard Goodliffe

We based ourselves in the Krkonose National Park, in the north of the country near the Polish border. It would be an ideal location for a club/Uni trip, a variety of rivers can be paddled and best of all it's dead cheap.

Weir on the Upa. Paddler: Sven Sprottsheim.

The Practicalities

800 odd miles, we drove it in two days, stopping at Erfurt in Germany on the way. The E40 runs from Calais to the Polish border, no tolls to pay. We crossed in to Poland at Gorlitz, then turned immediately south to enter the Czech Republic at Zawidow. (Make sure you have a Green Card for you vehicle, we were OK on the way in but had problems crossing back into Poland on the return trip. The border guards support Liverpool, which may have helped) It's about 2 hours from there to the campsite we used, Autocamping Zatisi at Jablonic Nad Jizerou. (

Not much English is spoken, however in bars and shops most people have some German. A beer is less than 50p, a three-course meal with drinks usually costs about 3.

The Rivers

Plenty of them; we paddled the Jizer, Jizerou, Upa, Mala Upa, Mumlava and one other that didn't seem to have a name. All were grade 3/4 with most things runnable on sight. However some of the weirs are potentially nasty, always worth a look beforehand. The biggest hazard was fallen trees that set up some nasty strainers.
The source of the River Elbe, which empties into the North Sea at Hamburg is up in the ski resort of Spindleruv. It can be padded below the resort but a permit must be obtained from the sawmill, which is signposted off the road that leads to and from the resort. We didn't paddle it, but it looked like fairly continuous 3/4, with trees as usual. It's worth sticking a decent bow saw in the car, it is often possible to clear the trees where there is access from the road. We didn't follow a guide, just bought a map, found a river and paddled it. There is a guide available but it's written in German.

Psycho Falls, Mumlava River. Paddler: Reiner Boder.

People seemed to welcome paddlers, but you will get stared at driving a UK car. Drink drive limit is nil, and according to an Irish guy we met who was living out there they are very strict. Most people drive like they are half cut though, overtaking on blind bends in wheezing Skodas is a national obsession.

If you fancy a change from paddling, visit the Summa Bobova in Spindleruv. It's a stainless steel bobsleigh run, completely bonkers; make sure you are well insured! There is also plenty of walking up in the hills; there was snow up high when we visited in late April. Alpine skiing looked OK, and there seemed to be miles of cross-country trails.

Richard Goodliffe, paddling with Pete Smith and members of the Alster Canoe Club, Hamburg April/ May 2002.