The Best of Kevin Callan
Book Review: Top 50 Canoe Routes of Ontario
By Conor Mihell
In the introduction to Top 50 Canoe Routes of Ontario (Firefly Books, $29.95, available at Amazon), author and always enthusiastic canoe tripper Kevin Callan describes the task of assembling his list of “greatest hits” for his latest guidebook as being akin to the Rolling Stones gathering songs for their Forty Licks album.
While the comparison might be a bit of a stretch, it’s impossible to deny the influence Callan has had on the landscape of canoe tripping in Ontario. For almost two decades, the Peterborough, Ont.-based paddler has argued that the mid-continental Canadian province, home to legendary parks like Algonquin and Quetico, has some of the best canoeing in the world, and goes a long way in his latest guidebook to prove his point.
Callan is well known amongst canoeists for the self-deprecating, humorous anecdotes of his canoe tripping misadventures—dealing with nuisance black bears and ticks, and overgrown portages of long-lost routes—that makes him a sellout hit at various paddling tradeshows. His latest title is comprised chiefly of trip reports previously published in his eight other guidebooks (with relevant updates), as well as 10 new routes and all new maps showing portages, campsites and the ratings of whitewater rapids. Filling a stout 336 pages, Top 50 Canoe Routes of Ontario divides the province into nine regions, ranging from civilized paddling destinations in populous southern Ontario to remote, infrequently paddled river trips north of Lake Superior and in northwestern Ontario’s sprawling Wabakimi Provincial Park.
Perhaps most notable is Callan’s “aw, shucks” writing style, which puts readers in his shoes and captures the essence of his first-hand experiences paddling each route with the congeniality of a campfire story. Callan likes to mention that he’s avoided the truly iconic canoe tripping of the Canadian North because he “has no money… and likes trees.” His latest guidebook goes a long way in his mission to prove that it’s still possible to discover great wilderness tripping in our own backyards.