Canadian Canoe Culture

/Canadian Canoe Culture
Canadian Canoe Culture2017-06-06T18:33:09-04:00

The Initiation

A ten-year old boy stands on the sandy shoreline of the pond at Scanlon Creek Conservation Area in Ontario, Canada, deftly swinging his fishing rod with all his might attempting to cast out to the largemouth bass that repeatedly break the surface 30 metres from shore. He sits down, exhausted and frustrated, closes his eyes and dreams up crude rafts that he can construct to get closer to the fish. Suddenly, a whoop and a splash wakes him from his daydream, and he watches in disbelief as two fishermen in a canoe catch and release two huge bass in the very spot that was so close yet just beyond his reach. There before him was the answer to his dilemma – a canoe!

That little boy was me, and that was the moment that initiated my lifelong obsession with the canoe.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, the canoe would become the symbol of self-reliance that would carry me through life. It has provided me with access to breath-taking, otherwise inaccessible landscapes, and it has deepened my connection with those who occupied the land before me. When I saw Goh Iromoto’s film, The Canoe, it moved me in a way that is difficult to put into words – it transformed me back into that little boy sitting on the shore, longing to be out on the water.

Goh Iromoto’s, The Canoe

This 5-part documentary highlights ConnectorChallengeLandscapesNewcomers, and Indigenous Culture. The Canoe tells the story of Canada’s connection to water and how paddling in Ontario has enriched the lives of five different people.

Challenge: To me, nothing embodies self-reliance like the challenge of a solo canoe trip. If you’re new to the idea of travelling through the wilderness alone in the canoe, here are some helpful tips to ease you into it. Solo Canoe Tripping

Landscapes. From the Great Lakes Plains in the south, to the James Bay Lowlands to the north, the Boreal forests and Canadian Shield between, Ontario is blessed with strikingly beautiful, varied landscapes. Check out Killarney for some of the most interesting Ontario has to offer.

Connector: There is something special about the canoe, and the landscape that it travels through, that forms greater connections between the people that share in the experience together. Friends, families, pets and new acquaintances all benefit from time spent together on the water. I cherish the moments I spend with my family in a canoe.

Indigenous CultureThe ingenuity and resilience of the First Nations is embodied in the traditional birch bark canoe. It remains one of my life goals to build a canoe solely of natural materials under the tutelage of an Ojibway or Cree elder. In the meantime, my favourite canoe to paddle is my cedar and canvas canoe – the feel of the natural materials beneath my feet and the way it glides across the water into the sunrise is surreal.

Newcomers: There is nothing I can think of that makes me more Canadian than the canoe. When I see the look in the eyes of a tourist standing on the dock at Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park, I see nervousness and trepidation, but mostly I see excitement and wonderment. It makes me proud as a Canadian to be able to share this experience not only with new Canadians, but with young and old Canadians who have never before had the opportunity to step into a canoe. Stay tuned for upcoming workshops and demonstrations on canoeing at My Self Reliance Camp where I’m proud to introduce newcomers to the art of canoeing Canadian style.

“If it is love that binds people to places in this nation of rivers and in this river of nations then one enduring expression of that simple truth, is surely the canoe.” James Raffan, adventurer, acclaimed author and Director Emeritus of the Canadian Canoe Museum.