Travellers should pick up a paddle blade to get wet, wild and wonderstruck on Canada’s magnificent waterways.
Suggested tweet: Go with the flow and take a canoe trip on your next Canadian vacation http://ow.ly/MPbwi #explorecanada
Canoeing is practically part of Canadians’ genetic code. About half of Canada is covered by the wild forests, rivers, ancient scoured granite and tens of thousands of lakes that make up the Canadian Shield, our backyard wilderness playground. First Nations people used birch-bark or spruce-wood canoes to travel long distances, while Europeans paddled in York boats and canots du nordduring their later explorations of this fresh frontier.
“Paddle a hundred (miles) in a canoe and you are already a child of nature,” avid paddler Pierre Elliott Trudeau, one of our most colourful prime ministers, once wrote.
Newbies and families can start off slow and easy. The full 202-km (126-mi) family-friendly, super-easy UNESCO World Heritage Rideau Canal route from Kingston to Ottawa, ON, can take almost two weeks, but easy morning or afternoon paddles on short bits cover chunks of Canadian history and keep close to civilization in the form of pretty little canal-side towns. The jaunt from Dow's Lake to the locks beside Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier makes a great beginner’s course, right through the middle of the nation’s capital.
Nova Scotia’s Kejimkujik National Park offers perfect daytrip paddles, while its Peskowesk Lake System bites off a more ambitious itinerary—a dozen lakes linked by 13 portages. New paddlers can nibble on short excursions, leaving veterans to chow down on the whole wild meal.
Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park, chockfull of lakes and rivers and a cottagers’ favourite, is honeycombed with 2,000 km (1242 mi)’s worth of paddling possibilities, ranging from easy to challenging. The historic 105-km (65-mi) French River, flowing from Lake Nipissing to Georgian Bay, offers another pretty, easily reachable, family paddle and a taste of canoe camping.
In British Columbia, the world-famous water-linked chain of lakes in the Bowron Lake Circuit is just an hour’s flight northeast of Vancouver. Guided trips take care of all the details, while paddlers get to enjoy a week-long journey into Canada’s raw natural beauty.
If you’re seeking a more remote trip, northern Saskatchewan’s Churchill River system runs 1,690 km (1,050 mi). With nine portages through wild, virginal forests, it’s a sliver of the 4.8 million square kilometers of Canadian Shield country.
If you’re up for highest-order adrenaline rushes instead, then grab a good guide and hit whitewater for the thrill of running rapids. Part of the Canadian Heritage Rivers System, Manitoba’s Bloodvein River flows a bouncy 200 km (124 mi) from the Manitoba/Ontario border, through Atikaki Provincial Wilderness Park, to Lake Winnipeg.
In Nahanni National Park, NWT, best known for being one of the first official World Heritage Sites, Naha Dehé (the South Nahanni River), sweeps the most serious paddlers (with guides) through rugged, fierce landscapes. Veteran wilderness lovers also relish tackling the remote Mackenzie River—Canada’s longest, at 1,850 km (1,150 mi). It’s a two-month paddle, from Hay River on Great Slave Lake to the Arctic Ocean.
Whether it’s on an easy day trip or a courageous wilderness journey, once you’ve dipped your paddle into Canada’s waters, you’ll be a proud child of nature—maybe even an honourary Canadian.
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