Our little guide on kayaking on the Thur and Rhine rivers

Kayaking in Switzerland

The other weekend, we felt the urge to spend some serious couple time. That "only the two of us" concert visit seems like months ago.

The grandparents agree to look after the little one, a friend would walk the dog and we suddenly have an entire day to ourselves. We decide that we want to feel young and adventurous again - just like back in those days when we fell in love with each other...

A day away from it all

My better half is off to the basement to clean our kayak from all the spider webs. While he hauls the kayak to the car, I packed a lunch of homemade Indian chapati, yoghurt dip and lots of different vegetables, a bottle of tap-water and some candies.

Off we go to Andelfingen, a town by the River Thur, just outside of Winterthur. We park at Alte Steinerstrasse next to the wooden bridge that leads to Kleinandelfingen. This is only a few steps away from the River Thur. Make sure you check the water-level right there - it should be at least knee-deep!

Only a short moment later, we are gliding on the peaceful waters of the river past lush forests, stony beaches and lots of beautiful bird life. (I have never seen that many herons before.) Suddenly, we feel the calm deep within ourselves (ooomm!) and we don’t care about all the stressful moments at home. Everyday life seems very far away here on the Thur.

The landscape along the river is scenic, so no wonder the beaver likes it here, too! Keep your eyes open as you might see his gnawing marks on the trees. For several kilometers, we paddle casually, pass some small rapids, talk, laugh and sometimes keep still to listen to the birds singing.

Where the Thur meets the Rhine

Then, we make it to the junction where the Thur river floats into the Rhine river. For obvious reasons, the currents suddenly move much quicker and the river got wider. This is where the more popular part of the trip starts. So, depending on the time of the day, you might meet a lot of like-minded people paddling on the water.

Kayaking in Switzerland

We also see some serious kayakers who look like out of a "Winnetou" movie. With this being the day and age of Instagram, there are some teenagers floating on big inflatable flamingos and doughnuts, so our trip is quite entertaining!

We now move faster, with less effort, which is even more fun. We pass by dense forests, green vineyards (there is a reason that this region is called „Zürcher Weinland“) and a handful of picturesque villages like Rüdlingen. This is already part of the canton of Schaffhausen.

There are plenty of small, secluded spots on the riverbank where you can stop to enjoy your lunch or go for a swim in the clean and cold water of the Rhine river. On a hot summer day, this is a must-do because it is refreshing and you will never forget that feeling - I promise.

What happened next...

The last part of the kayaking trip is becoming a bit of an adventure. First of all, a head wind makes us sweat. Suddenly, we have to paddle with much more strength and believe me, this is hard when you are five months pregnant (me) and have a lower back ache (my better half).

So, it must have looked funny how we bit our lips in despair and turned around like a feather in the water. (Yes, we also lost the fin of our boat which helps to stay on track.)

Kayaking in Switzerland

Knee deep into this bargain, our kayak is no longer dry on the inside. It reminds more of a half full bathtub, except that the water is really, really cold. The boat is also constantly losing air, so we have to stop every 15 minutes to inflate it. This trip is becoming a nightmare, after all.

But then, everything is changing as we approach the highlight of the day: My better half, well known for his animal-spotting-skills, points to a branch that rises out of the water. I have to squint my eyes, but then I see this wonderful thing taking a sunbath on top of the branch: A turtle!

Meet a European pond turtle

I am very excited and forget about the struggles we had just five minutes ago. I am in awe for a very long moment, because I have never seen a wild turtle in Switzerland my entire life.

I did not even know they exist! Google helped me later on to close that knowledge-gap: It was most likely a Europäische Sumpfschildkröte (European pond turtle). Full of energy after that pleasing encounter with the turtle, we start to paddle like well-trained twenty year olds and make it to Eglisau without any more disasters.

Eglisau at the edge of the canton of Zürich is our destination for today. Look out for the Ausbootstelle on the left hand side of the Rhine – the place to get out. The reason being that the train station at the top of the hill is closest to this river exit.

Once back on land, you will also find toilets, a fountain with refreshing drinking water, a basic changing room and a recycling station. This is where we decide to lay our broken down kayak to its final rest...

Before you are heading off to go on a kayak-trip yourself, I have some (lifesaving) tips for you:

  • Do not stop and go on land within the protected areas. There are precious birds breeding. Even though you might not see them, they are still there. You could get a hefty fine that will end that lovely feeling of freedom right away.
  • Never believe a man who tells you that he carefully checked the kayak/rubber boat/air mattress for holes - you get my point.
  • Always pack enough of your favorite food/drinks to keep you happy on the trip.
  • Switch off your smartphones and enjoy the moment!

More information

Check out this website for info about the described kayak tour above. We paddled the Thur and Rhine rivers along route 40. It took us around five to six hours to complete, including breaks and at average paddling-strength.
On this website, you will also find useful information on water levels, tour length, maps, transfers from Eglisau back to Andelfingen, etc. Also, it is possible to book guided trips.

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Melanie

A passionate globetrotter who likes to return to Switzerland after her adventures abroad. Melanie loves diving and the outdoors and is a typical Gemini: Communicative, sociable and multi-faced (which explains her favorite animal, the chameleon!).
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