There’s no feeling like being dropped off on a wilderness railway siding, watching the train disappear and realizing that the only way back to civilization is to paddle out, downriver. Ontario’s Algoma Central Railway is one of Canada’s few railways that will accept canoes as baggage. Here’s three worthy river-tripping options off the 296-mile line that bisects northern Ontario.
Tyler Fox grew up in small-town Ontario (Marmora, that is), but currently splits his time between the Ottawa River and Okere Falls, New Zealand. “Doesn’t everyone have a Northern and Southern Hemisphere home?” he asks. Umm, if we could only be so lucky. At least we can live vicariously through the 29-year-old on the bleeding edge of freestyle kayaking, watching his latest video edit. We caught up with Fox to get some answers, and to have him weigh in on where he sees the sport of freestyle kayaking now, and where he sees it going.
This summer ended with First Descents coming to Canada for the first time. The decade-old, ever-expanding nonprofit uses kayaking to clear the heads of people who escaped a deadly disease, and helps them navigate chutes and boulders to the next stage of their lives. By all accounts, it’s a powerful program for campers, volunteers and staff in this burgeoning phenomenon within the paddling community.
On the third day of a weeklong, early spring canoe trip in northern Ontario, my trip mates start calling me Shackleton. We’ve been icebound on sprawling Smoothwater Lake since the end of Day One, when we dragged, pushed and occasionally paddled across 10 miles of ice, slush and short-lived leads of open water. From this sweeping sand beach on Smoothwater’s east side, it’s disappointingly obvious that zeal outweighed logic in planning this early season trip across 75 miles of prime canoe country in search of the lake that carries my family name. Breakup is days away, and our expedition is fast becoming a failure.
On this Sunday afternoon in early May, the Petite Bostonnais River is anything but small. As 600 cfs barrels down the narrow granite gauntlet, a cross-section of the world’s top paddlers stare into the crux of the racecourse: a weir-hole entrance to a chaotic and continuous 60-foot slide with serious face-shredding potential—all of it feeding into an enormous re-circulating hole. Avoiding that sucking man-trap meant threading a seemingly impossible line to the right after more than a minute of all-out paddling through a succession of multi-tiered Class V drops.
TOM BYERS’ DARK, DUSTY CANOE WORKSHOP IS CLUTTERED WITH EVERYTHING EXCEPT POWER TOOLS. The accomplished backwoods builder shapes immaculate birchbark craft by axe, knife, awl, and bit brace. Hundreds of feet of peeled jack pine roots join the pieces, all products of the northern forest-birchbark skin, white cedar ribs and sheathing, spruce gum-steeped in the indigenous heritage of this centuries-old alchemy.
The first Whitewater Grand Prix wrapped up Saturday with a giant slalom race (see video, above) on a Class V section of gnarl on the Bras Louis River, in Quebec. As the sixth and final stage of the two-week long event, in Ontario and Quebec, Canada, the giant slalom also sorted out the final overall standings…
“So you’re starting to see what I mean about all the sanding?” says Ron Pellinen, my wooden canoe-building mentor, when I walk into his shop on a brisk March morning in Northern Ontario. Perched on an office chair in his workshop garage, Pellinen has just cut the power to the orbital sander he was using to smooth the contours of a thwart, one of the ash crosspieces that adds strength and structure to a canoe.
Kirk Albert Walter Wipper: 1923-2011. For Kirk Wipper, a canoe was a piece of living history. It spoke of aboriginal and European builders, of designs inspired by geography and building materials, and of the movement of people across North American waterways, and, ultimately, the preservation of wild canoe country. A canoe was meant to be paddled—as a means of discovering history firsthand.
By Conor Mihell Published: February 8, 2011 Canadian canoeist, filmmaker, photographer and author Rolf Kraiker’s latest project is a blast from the past. Kraiker is currently at work on an instructional video illustrating the art of traditional solo canoeing, the graceful, ballet-style of paddling that’s been practiced for generations on the crystalline lakes of Northern […]
Just out from Rolf Kraiker… Part one of a video series—from a forthcoming DVD—detailing some of the mechanics behind obtaining complete control of a canoe using the traditional “Canadian” style of paddling that has been handed down from aboriginal paddlers through generations of summer camp adaptations in the Canoe Country region of Ontario, Canada.
(Ed’s note: This is the first piece in a series.) “The canoe is the simplest, most functional, yet aesthetically pleasing object ever created.” —Bill Mason, Path of the Paddle By Conor Mihell Published: January 14, 2011 The late Canadian canoeing legend Bill Mason was fond of extolling the virtues of wood and canvas canoes in […]
Our canoes can be spotted in some unusual places these days.
Photo by Jovan Matic David Johnston’s motivation as a sea kayak instructor changed when he no longer had to make a living at it. “Now I tell the students, ‘This better be fun because I’m on vacation,’” says the Toronto-based civil servant and Web designer. It’s not that Johnston didn’t know how to have a […]
Conor Mihell paddles out in historic surf on Lake Superior last week near Wawa, Ontario. Photo: Megan Gamble/naturallysuperior.com The National Weather Service’s Great Lakes coastal forecast website ranks high on the list of bookmarks for rough-water paddlers in the heart of the continent. When the lakes glow red and purple on the forecast, indicating waves […]