7 great Canadian canoe trips

By: Katharine Fletcher

Bloodvein River, Manitoba<br />Photography by Katharine Fletcher Author: Canadian Living Credits: Bloodvein River, Manitoba<br />Photography by Katharine Fletcher


7 great Canadian canoe trips

By: Katharine Fletcher
Can you make love in a canoe without it capsizing?

That's what the late Canadian historian Pierre Berton claimed defines a Canadian. To practice this criteria – purely for reasons of national identity, you understand – here are seven amazing canoe trips for you and your special someone to experience.

1. Rideau Canal: Kingston to Ottawa, Ontario

Why go: Because you're paddling Canadian history. The Rideau Canal, which opened in 1832, was built so military supplies could travel between Ottawa and Kingston in case of war. Happily, the 47 locks and 24 lockstations never saw military use.

What's remarkable about it: The Rideau Canal won UNESCO World Heritage designation in 2007.

Wildlife you'll see:
The Canal's Rideau and Cataraqui river stretches, plus lakes, are home to beavers, muskrats, bluebirds and loons.

Begin at Kingston so wind direction and currents work with you. In May/June and September/October the Rideau Canal is less crowded. Allow 6-10 days for the entire 202 kilometres, but smaller chunks are fun – try the afternoon paddle from Ottawa's Dow's Lake to Chateau Laurier.

Planning: Parks Canada website (;

2. Grand River, Ontario

Why go: Jamie Kent of Grand Experiences Outfitters enthuses, "The Grand is a natural oasis an hour's drive west of Toronto. In an area not renowned for nature, the 300 km Grand winds through a valley of rare Carolinian forest." And he's so right.

What's remarkable about it:
Kent's tours include First Nations storytelling and music or identification of wild herbs. Paddle to the Pow Wow taking place on July 25-26.

Wildlife you'll see: Home to rare Carolinian flora (Mayapples and green dragon) and mammals (badger, gray fox and Virginia opossum).

Tips: Pending water levels, paddle March-November.

Grand Experiences Outfitters:;;

3. Bowron River Circuit, Northern British Columbia

Why go: This internationally renowned, stunning 116 km trip courses through B.C.'s wilderness Caribou region.

What's remarkable abut it:
Everything! Bowron has stirred many hearts and fed many minds with wonder at the magnificence of our natural world.

Wildlife you'll see: Moose! Be wildlife wise and keep you distance.

Tips: Reservations are mandatory. Plan six or seven days for the whole circuit. If you don't have the time, do the shorter West Side trip (Bowron to Unna lakes). Bowron is remote, so pack prudently.

Planning: For accommodations plus convenient pre-trip planning:

4. Rivière Noire (Black River) Québec
Why go: The Noire is one of Quebec's "Three Sisters" (Noire, Dumoine and Coulonge). Depending where you start, the Noire's a rushy whitewater trip – or a lazy, wending day-paddle.

What's remarkable about it: There are gorgeous sandy embankments perfect for picnics in the lower stretches.

Wildlife you'll see: Deer, otters, kingfishers and merganser ducks.

Tips: Located in Pontiac, West Quebec, the Black River is two hours northwest of Ottawa.

Planning: Excellent local outfitters help plan trips along any of the Three Sisters:,

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– more great Canadian canoe trips on the next page, PLUS discover an Canadian wilderness experience.Bloodvein River, Manitoba
Why go: This is a classic whitewater paddle for novices or experts, featuring easygoing swifts through to boiling Class IV.

What's remarkable about it: Canadian Shield rocks resembling beached whales line and fracture into the river; aboriginal pictographs on cliffs – plus Bloodvein First Nations lodge and traditional sweat lodges.

Wildlife you'll see: Bald eagles soar and beautiful pink lady-slipper orchids blossom in the woods.

Tips: This is a remote, fly-in trip which demands coordination. You may capsize, so wear your lifejacket and helmet for your dunking!

Planning: Operator Cameron White runs safe, fun trips:

6. Quetico Provincial Park, Ontario
Why go: Dramatic big-sky sunsets over lakes dotted with tree-encrusted islands, haunting laughter of loons and the sounds of lake water lapping at your beach. What other reasons do you need to experience Quetico, west of Lake Superior at the U.S. border?

What's remarkable about it:
Jagged rock cliffs – plus red ochre pictographs – further define what some call "the best wilderness canoeing in the world."

Wildlife you'll see: Loons, moose, beaver and herons.

Tips: You can do an easy outing to McAree Lake, or coordinating 13-day trips (Carp Lake-Hunter's Island Loop). Remember your bug spray!

Planning: lists outfitters plus park info.

7. Naha Dehé (South Nahanni River) Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories
Why go: Nahanni is the iconic Canadian wilderness experience, made internationally famous by Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Bill Mason. The river courses 540 km southeast from the Selwyn Mountains passing through extraordinary canyons (Third and Fourth Canyons are 19 km long, 1,200 m deep).

What's remarkable about it:
It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1976 because of its wilderness ecological significance. Nahanni is legendary for Virginia Falls' 90m drop.

Wildlife you'll see: Grizzlies, woodland caribou, Dall sheep and trumpeter swans.

Tips: Reservations are mandatory, as well as registration and de-registration.

Remember: We are guests of nature, so follow "leave no trace" and other eco-friendly practices.

Planning:; Parks Canada website (

Page 2 of 2 -- On page 1, learn where you can find
rare Carolinian forest right here in Canada!

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7 great Canadian canoe trips