Canoeing on Ontario's Grand River
The gently moving waters of the Grand River in Southwestern Ontario provide a relaxing opportunity for canoeists of all abilities. (PHIL RABY/Special to QMI Agency)
KITCHENER -- Slipping along the banks of Ontario's Grand River in a canoe, it's easy to imagine yourself as a pioneering explorer searching for new trade routes.
Ancient trees loom on both sides, wildlife seems to greet you around every bend and the gently moving current holds it own dark secrets below. Fortunately for us, our path has been carefully set out for us and we need neither good fortune nor a compass to complete our journey safely.
Our scenic paddle down the Grand River was organized by Kitchener-based outfitter Canoeing the Grand (canoeingthegrand.com). With my wife and our eight-year-old daughter on board, we chose a two-hour leisurely trip that wouldn't tax our muscles or bladders too much (there are no bathrooms in a canoe).
Our guides set us up with a sturdy canoe, paddles, life jackets and safety kit. Then they squeezed us and other would-be voyageurs into a passenger van and headed up river with our canoes and gear in tow. Along for the ride were young couples, other families and even a couple of dogs.
Once we arrived at our launch spot, we slipped our canoe into the water and carefully climbed aboard. With a gentle push away from the shore we were off and almost immediately spotted a large heron watching us from the shoreline. This would turn out to be the first of many close encounters with wildlife that we would meet on this day.
Paddling down the Grand River was a breeze with a gentle current that helped us along our small section of the waterway that stretches 300 km from the highlands of Dufferin County to Port Maitland on Lake Erie. The river is wide, easy to navigate and suitable for adventurers of all experience levels.
The shortest trek takes just over an hour with longer voyages for more seasoned enthusiasts lasting up to 10 hours and covering 50 km of the Grand. Some of the more advanced routes can also include short portages and small rapids. And if you really want to explore more of the river than that, then Canoeing the Grand will coordinate your trip with other outfitters to take you all the way to Lake Erie.
Our journey was relatively short, but we paddled through different ecosystems, spied all sorts of waterfowl and looked upon some heritage buildings along the shore. Within 100 metres of the dock at the end of our travels, we spotted a red fox staring us down, providing an exciting climax to a "Grand" afternoon.
The cost for the canoe rental and shuttle bus up river runs from $34 to $129, depending on the length of the voyage. The price includes two adults, but an extra adult can join the fun for an additional $20 and children aged three to 12 are $10 each (maximum of two per canoe).
No matter what trip you select, there is no hourly rental fee and you can take as long as you like to return the canoe as long you're back before 6 p.m. Trips are available seven days a week from April 1 to Oct. 31.
For more information, visit canoeingthegrand.com or call 1-877-896-0290.