“Westerly winds and some showers, too cool for early July”. The weather forecast for our week of kayaking on the Peene River in Northern Germany was not too favourable. But it means we will be paddling downriver, as Heiko at the kayak rental explains: The river’s surface elevation in Verchen, at the start of our tour, is just 24 cm higher than at its end about 80 km away in Anklam. “The Peene is the only river in Europe that actually changes its direction with easterly winds and flows away from the sea.” Local PR agents call the river Peene the “Amazonas of the North” – this may be a bit of an exaggeration, but large parts of the river are a nature sanctuary and we expect to see a lot of animals.
The only inn along the first stage of the five-day tour is closed today, so we make do with a snack in Verchen and start off from the banks of Lake Kummerow. After a few hundred meters across the lake, we turn into the River Peene, pass a few wooden decks and quays and then float between high reeds.
Peene Kayaking depends on Friendly winds from behind
Kayaking on the river Peene is easy, with a light wind blowing steadily from behind us. Although there are two other paddlers not so far from us, within minutes of leaving the lake behind we feel enclosed in a muted world. Just the lapping and slapping of the paddles in the water and the water on the boat, the chirping of small birds somewhere in the reed. Getting into the rhythm of paddling takes a while, but it is very calming and relaxing. During the afternoon, the wind freshens up, however. So although it is just speeding us up from behind we are glad when we reach the rest area at Trittelwitz.
The rest area is very rustic and basic with a pit toilet and a muddy bathing spot where local boys come by to swim. A pair of cranes land across the river while we pitch our tent. Later on we also take a refreshing dip between algae and water lilies.
The next day we come through Demmin, one of several small towns we will pass during the next days. We forego the walk around town in favour of a visit to the local bakery that several people had already recommended (and rightly so).
A steady drizzel and lots of water birds
Afterwards, the cloudy weather turns into rain, but with a rain jacket and splashguard it is rather cozy, not least because the slow-flowing river is not cooler than an average swimming pool. Today, there are even fewer day trippers on small motorboats than usually – larger boats may not enter here. Apart from a handful of fellow kayakers on the “Amazonas” tour, we are alone with ducks and herons. High above us, we can spot eagles occasionally.
The whole river valley of the Peene has been turned into a nature reserve after Germany’s unification in 1990, following decades of drainage and land reclamation in the marshy wetlands. Every now and again, we pass the entrance to dead-end canals, where peat was cut until the 20th century. This makes kayaking on the river Peene a pleasant experience.
On the third day, nearly everyone on the 5-day kayak trip (which is generally on a Monday to Friday schedule with all the rental companies) is heading for the campsite at Gützkow because there are a few other places where you may disembark, but nowhere to camp. But although we end up meeting nearly two dozen fellow paddlers in the evening, the day on the river is quite charming and quiet, passing along forests and at eye-level with swans and cormorants. We don’t see any beavers, however, although the river is supposed to be swarming with them. “There aren’t so many animals at all,” complains a Saxonian paddler, “we had expected much more wildlife”.
Nature in our tent
Wildlife, in our experience, has a knack for turning up in our tent. And indeed the next morning, when we pull back the splash guards from the heap in our camp entrance, a high shriek pierces the air. A small bat had selected that pile as a resting place.
The last two paddling stages are not very long, and we arrive in Stolpe in the early afternoon. Having pitched the tent we have a fabulous piece of cake and good coffee on the terrace of the Stolper Fährkrug, the best (and most expensive) restaurant along the route. Afterwards we decide to paddle downriver to Menzlin and back for an excursion. The small harbour of Menzlin was a trading post of Vikings in the 9th century, and boat-shaped stone settings still mark Viking graves.
On the final day there is enough time in the morning to visit the nature reserve’s visitor centre in Stolpe before paddling the last couple of kilometres to Anklam. That’s where we are picked up at noon. And just before the town at the mouth of the Peene River we finally see a beaver swimming next to us. And then a kingfisher, too.
What you need to know to go kayaking on the river Peene
This tour was from Verchen to Anklam, about 80 km. You could go on behind Anklam for another day or so, before the river gets really wide and more unpredictable. However the rental companies don’t do pick-ups there.
We rented the kayak for five days from Abenteuer Peenetal in Verchen. The rental fee included kayak, paddles, life vest, splash guards and packsacks as well as the pick-up in Anklam. The kayak was fine, although not high-end, and equipped with a steering rudder.
Even for absolute beginners the Peene should be fine to paddle, as there are no currents or eddies at all. If you happen to have headwind the kayaking might be more exhausting, but five days seem plenty of time for the total distance. Anyway the rental companies would also pick you up along the route.
We camped all four nights and brought our own camping gear. Due to Corona the showers on the campsites were closed, but we could have a bath in the river now and then. There are also some B&Bs and hotels along the river where you could stay, but you would have to make a reservation at those.
Note: We paid for the kayak rental by ourselves and are not sponsored in any way for this article.