Canoeing and wild camping on slow-flowing river and narrow lakes
Starting on the border of the county of Dalarna in eastern Värmland, the Svartälven ("Black River") is one of Sweden's best canoeing waters. From its source, the river runs south through a landscape of outstanding natural beauty.
This canoe tour passes through a network of winding rivers, narrow passageways and small lakes and requires a number of land crossings, the longest being about 2km. A canoe wagon is included as part of standard equipment to help with the portages.
The Svartälven region is a wonderful area for canoeing. The rhythmic "swoosh-slop" as your paddle breaks the surface and cuts through the water, your canoe gliding smoothly forward as you slip in silence through the surrounding forest landscape - a canoe tour on the river Svartälven provides an ideal mix of tranquility and adventure.
The freedom to camp wild along the route is one of the privileges of the Swedish outdoors. Photo: James Horton.
The freedom to plan your days as you wish
Canoeing on Svartälven is a self-guided canoe expedition, a voyage of discovery taken at your own pace. The waters may be calm and slow-flowing, but the area offers a real canoe adventure. The tour runs in a remote area and you will be leaving "civilisation" behind you as you strike out into a world of water, trees and sky.
There is no timetable on this trip - you will be deciding yourself what distance you wish to cover each day, and selecting your own camping spot each night.
You will choose when to rest and when to push on, when to take a day out to explore the many tributaries flowing into the Svartälven, or perhaps leave your canoe for a while and explore the beautiful surrounding area on foot before returning to the water. The rhythm of your days will be dictated only by your own inclinations.
The canoes you will use on the tour are two-person Canadian canoes - stable, easy-to-handle canoes with space for luggage and camping/kitchen equipment. No previous experience of canoeing is necessary.
Taking the chance to do some fishing is a popular option during the tour. Photo: Ruth Petit.
Each evening you will sit around the campfire, recounting your impressions of the day as the sun dips below the horizon and planning for the day ahead, or perhaps you will retire early to conserve your energy for the morning's paddling - the choice is yours!
When finally it is time to crawl into your sleeping bag and close your eyes, let the scents and sounds of the deep forest lull to you sleep until day breaks and it is time to take to the water once more...
Good chances to encounter beavers
Canoeing in this area of Sweden gives you excellent opportunities for intimate and personal encounters with some of the area's rich, and normally shy, wildlife. Canoeing is a quiet and unobtrusive activity, and you may find that the animals are much less wary of you than they would be if you approached on foot.
If you are lucky, and quiet, you may spot a beaver curving gracefully towards you through the water, just its head visible above the smooth glassy surface.
As you round a bend in the river you may come across an elk, the mighty King of the Forest, stooping to drink by the water's edge or perhaps striking out skillfully for the opposite bank - elk are excellent swimmers! In the skies above, eagles and buzzards accompany you on you journey, wheeling high in the air, their lonesome keening cries echoing for miles across the treetops.
Canoeing for odd-numbered groups
Canoes used are 2-person Canadian canoes but can also accommodate three persons. For odd numbers, there are two possibilities - please specify your chosen option when booking (option chosen does not affect the price):
- Paddle three persons in one canoe. This reduces the level of challenge but note that this option will limit available space for packing (this option is not recommended if your party is only three persons in total).
- Extra person uses sit-on-top kayak as alternative to canoe. The majority of packing for this extra person will then be carried in one of the canoes. A trolley is provided for the kayak to assist with land transports.
Why not combine your canoe tour with Timber Rafting Taster and try some timber rafting during your trip?
Detailed information you will need for your experience, including a description of the route, is sent out once full payment has been received.
Your canoe adventure begins at the canoe centre in Gunnerud, where you will receive your equipment and have a pre-tour instruction meeting. You can also trace out the route onto your map if you wish before the tour begins. Fishing licence covering designated sections of the canoe tour can be purchased at the canoe centre. You will then load the canoe equipment onto the minibus for transfer to the start point for your canoe tour.
- High season: Check-in is between 13.00 and 14.00. When preparations are complete, the transfer vehicle will leave around 15.00. Transfers are combined with other canoe tours beginning the day same and time to the start point will typically take around 1-1.5 hours depending on the tour option, start day and number of guests.
- Low season: Start time is by arrangement between 12.00 and 17.00.
4-day tour: For Saturday starts, your tour begins at the north end of Älvsjön. You paddle south through a particularly scenic area, up the winding Tvarälven and north-west to finish just below Lesjöfors. For Tuesday starts, the route is the same but is paddled in the reverse direction. There is nowhere to shop along the route - for the 4-day tour you must take all provisions with you from the beginning. Total distance around 35km-40km. The 4-day tour requires 2 land transports, both less than 600m in length. If you wish, the standard route can be extended by planning detours into side lakes and river systems.
7-day tour: Your tour starts at the borderline between the two counties of Värmland and Dalarna. Where Svartälven has its outlet in Kattsundet you launch and load the canoe, then head south. At the beginning you paddle through Kattsundet, Norra Laggen and Södra Laggen until you reach the village of Gustavsström. Here you make your first land transport. The route continues down through Älvsjön and through the Tvarälven before swinging north-west to pass through Lesjöfors to end at Västra Sundsjön. There are some small stores along the route (but please note that you should not rely on these stores for essential provisions) and one larger store around two-thirds of the way through the tour. There are also cafes and a campsite along the route and at one point you have the choice to take detours upstream into tributaries, where you have good chances to see beaver. Total distance around 75km. If you wish, the standard route can be extended by planning detours into side lake and river systems.
- High season: 4-day canoe tours beginning on Saturday will finish with pick-up on Tuesday at 17.00 (back at canoe centre by 18.00*). 4-day tours beginning on Tuesday will finish with pick-up on Friday at 13.00 (back at canoe centre around 15.00). 7-day canoe tours starting on Saturday will finish with pick-up on Friday afternoon at 14.00 (back at canoe centre around 15.00).
- Low season: Pick-up time is by arrangement between 12.00 and 17.00.
*For 4-day tours starting on a Saturday ending on a Tuesday, there is normally a bus from Gunnerud back to Karlstad departing 17.54. The pick-up is intended to allow time to connect with this bus to return to Karlstad that evening. Please mention to the canoe centre staff on arrival if you are planning to depart with this bus.
Dates & Prices»
- 4-day tour: Start days Saturdays and Tuesdays between 25.06 and 20.08.24 (last standard start day 20th August). Check-in between 13.00 and 14.00.
- 7-day tours: Start days Saturdays between 22.06 and 17.08.24 (last standard start day 17th August). Check-in between 13.00 and 14.00.
- 01.05-21.06.24 and 21.08-30.09.24 (latest end date 30th September). Start any day (except Sundays) by arrangement between 12.00 and 17.00 for a minimum total price of cost for 4 adults due to custom transfer logistics required for tours at this time. Examples: 2 or 3 persons charged at 4 x adult rate; family of 2 adults + 2 children under 16 charged at 4 x adult rate, family of 2 adults + 3 children under 16 charged at 4 x adult rate + 1 x child rate.
Prices include full kitchen equipment.
High Season/Low Season tours: During High Season, standard per person prices and start days apply. For tours during Low Season, there is a minimum charge of the cost for 4 adults due to custom transfers required. See under "Dates" for more information.
|4-day tour/child under 16||GBP|
|4-day tour/person group size 14+||GBP|
|7-day tour/child under 16||GBP|
|7-day tour/person group size 14+||GBP|
Groups: Price per person regardless of age. Group rates apply for group size min. 14 persons. NB: For group rate bookings, special conditions apply for deposit payment and cancellation - please contact us for details.
|Optional Extras (see description below)|
|Sleeping bag package/person||GBP|
|Provisions package/child under 16||GBP|
|Provisions package/person group size 14+||GBP|
|Tent (per 3-4 persons)||GBP|
|Sleeping bag package/person||GBP|
|Provisions package/child under 16||GBP|
|Provisions package/person group size 14+||GBP|
|Tent (per 3-4 persons)||GBP|
- Sleeping bag package: Includes sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner and foam sleeping mat.
- Provisions package: See image below. The food provided is that eaten by a typical Swedish family. At the start of the tour you will be given a provisions box with the food for the trip (if you have specific dietary requirements, please let us know so that arrangements can be made). The exact contents of the package may change depending on the season and availability. The food is purchased from small, local countryside shops. Typical contents include: bread, butter, cheese, juice, milk, yoghurt, muesli, coffee, tea, salami, jam, meatballs, fishballs, Swedish beef stew, ham, sausages, pork loin, mashed potatoes, onions, carrots, vegetables, beetroot, apples, biscuits, tomatoes, cucumber, rice, macaroni, asparagus soup, cauliflower soup, salt and pepper. You may need to purchase additional fresh milk, etc, along the way. Please note: If choosing provisions, for organisational reasons all persons travelling together must choose food packages (i.e. it is not possible to split packages or to purchase for only some members of a group). As the provisions packages are sourced from small, local stores which may have a limited range of goods, ONLY the following dietary requirements can be catered for: Vegetarian, Gluten Free, Lactose Free. Other requirements (vegan, allergies, etc) can unfortunately not be accommodated. If you prefer, you can also purchase provisions independently in Karlstad before travelling to the tour, which offers a wide range of larger food stores and supermarkets where provisions for special diets are available.
- Tent: See image below. High quality 3/4-person Hilleberg tents. Please note that, like all tents rated 4 persons, the tents are most comfortable for 3 adults.
- Fishing: Very simple fishing equipment and also fishing licences can be purchased at the canoe centre on arrival (NB: fishing equipment is available for purchase only, not for hire).
Tent (3-4 persons)
Typical food package contents (for 4 persons)
What's Included »
- Canoe equipment: 2-person Canadian canoe, paddles, buoyancy aids, one waterproof pack barrel (approx. 60 litres) and one waterproof dry bag (approx. 40 litres) per canoe, water can (5 litres), canoe rope, canoe trolley, toilet spade (toilet paper is not included), cleaning sponge and rubbish bags. For odd-numbered groups, please specify when booking whether you would like to paddle three persons in one canoe or would like sit-on-top kayak for odd-numbered person.
- Map: A map for the tour is provided, printed on waterproof paper and containing some additional information on camping, fishing and other elements of the route. No other map is required for the tour. If you also wish to purchase your own map, the map suitable for the 4-day and 7-day tours is Norstedts Sverigeserien Topo50 Blad 65 Fredriksberg (1:50,000). Maps can be purchased independently through The Map Shop.
- Kitchen equipment: Trangia hurricane stove* with fuel, cups, plates, cutlery, carving knife, cutting board, spatula, cheese slicer, whip, butter knife, can/bottle opener, potato peeler, bowl, dish brush, washing-up liquid, kitchen roll, matches and storage box.
- Instructor: Instruction meeting before your tour starts.
- Transfers: Transport by minibus for participants and equipment from the meeting point to/from the start/end points of the tour.
- Nature Card: To preserve the local environment all adults canoeing in the Svartälven area are required to have a "Nature Card", the proceeds of which go towards management of the area.
*Exact contents may differ from example shown
Please be careful with the canoe and the rest of your equipment! If some part of the equipment should break as a result of misuse or carelessness, you may be charged for the damage caused.
Please see "Prices > Optional Extras".
- Travel: We do not arrange flights or domestic travel, but are happy to advise on suitable connections and assist you with any aspect of planning your journey. See under "Getting There" for general travel information.
- Food: For the 4-day tour, you must bring all provisions with you from the beginning. For the 7-day tour, there are some small stores along the way (though we do not recommend you rely on these for essential provisions) and one larger store with regular opening hours in Lesjöfors, about two thirds of the way along the Svartälven route.
- Sleeping Bag
Good To Know »
Swimming ability required by adults. All participation at own risk. Minimum 2 adults.
You should be in good health and have a reasonable level of fitness and strength. The tour takes place on calm, slow-flowing rivers with some lake sections.
Around 10 land crossings are necessary during the 7-day (fewer for the 4-day route), the longest of which is about 2km. During the land transports the canoe can be transported on the canoe trolley but you will need to carry your other equipment. Though not as demanding as Canoe Tours in Bergslagen, children much younger than 10 may find Canoe Tours on Svartälven demanding. Please check with us if you have any questions regarding your suitability for the tour. If you would prefer a canoeing holiday suitable for younger children, you may wish to consider a less challenging tour such as Canoe on Klarälven.
What makes this "Medium"?
The tour takes place in a reasonably remote area with wild camping on all nights and requires some land transports, but overall has a generally moderate level of challenge.
NB: Perception of difficulty is very subjective. What is hard to one person may be easy for another and vice versa, depending on factors including level of fitness, age and previous experience. Weather conditions/temperatures can also dramatically affect the actual level of challenge encountered.
For information on any equipment and/or clothing included as standard for this experience, please see under "What's Included".
A detailed recommended packing list for personal items to bring will be sent with your booking documentation.
NB: We advise you not to buy equipment or clothes for your trip or to incur other non-refundable expenses such as flights until you have received confirmation of your booking from us in writing. Note of course that the most appropriate clothing to use as well as the level of challenge experienced during any outdoor activity may vary significantly depending on factors such as the time of year and the particular weather/temperature conditions during your trip.
Preparing for your trip:
For further reading, we also have a number of general information articles to get you ready for your trip, covering a wide variety of topics from what to do on a city break before/after your tour, advice on packing, eyewear for winter and considerations for female travellers.
Combine This With
This experience makes a good combination with the following:
Canoe on Svartälven is ideal for groups. We reserve the right to assign large groups to designated camping spots to minimum impact on the local environment.
This provider has received a prestigious Swedish Ecotourism award for its commitment to high standards to cultural and environmental sensitivity.
Getting There »
See below for a summary of travel options. To learn more about how to travel to this experience, please get in touch!
Detailed information on travel will be provided in response to your enquiry. We are happy to advise on suitable connections and assist you with any aspect of planning your journey.
NB: Please ensure that you make a booking with us first and wait for confirmation that your spaces are reserved before making any travel arrangements.
You can choose to fly to Stockholm, Gothenburg or Oslo airports. From here, you travel by public transport to Karlstad (around 2.5-5.5 hours depending on options chosen). From Karlstad, you travel by local bus to Gunnerud (around 1.5 hours). You can also choose to travel by hire car.
Ferry Dover-Dunkirk or Newcastle-Amsterdam for onward connections to Gunnerud.