It seemed like a good idea at the time—paddle the entire stretch of Ontario’s Thames River, from Woodstock to Lighthouse Cove on Lake St. Clair. The idea had a bit of Huck Finn flavour to it.
The Thames is definitely comparable to the Mississippi River. It runs a full 273 kilometres and is the most southern watercourse in Canada. That’s one respectable ditch, running past southern cities, hamlets, corn fields and dusty country roads. I’m more acclimatized to canoeing rivers in the far north where it’s rare to see another paddler, let alone any sign of development along the banks.
I started second-guessing my river choice the other night when I folded the maps of the route out on the kitchen floor. There were too many maps to display them on the kitchen table. This is one long river. I initially figured it would take me a week—now I’m thinking it will be double that.
Then came the problem of where to camp along the way. There were possibilities on some Conservation Areas en route. But would there be a place to pitch a tent along the semi-wild south branch, amongst the urban clusters of Woodstock and Ingersoll? What about the city of London or the farm fields neighbouring Chatham?
What about water levels, or potable drinking water? Would there be a chance of getting my gear or canoe nabbed?
But isn’t that what adventure is all about? To quote Mark Twain in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: “The average man don't like trouble and danger.” And I don’t like being average.”
Let the adventure begin. My drift down the mighty Thames begins the end of May. I’m looking forward to changing my riverbank view from boreal spruce and pine to rich Carolinian forest; home of rare tree species like tulip, paw paw, Kentucky coffee and sassafras. I’m also excited about the whole idea of paddling the entire stretch of a river from source to mouth. Every paddler should have that on their bucket list. And I’m really looking forward to experiencing the rich culture and ecology that exists on the Thames.
Here’s hoping I’ll drift by a herd of dairy cows, catch an exotic garpike, get a glimpse of the endangered soft-shell turtle, pitch my tent on the bed of a fancy hotel and meet countless kindred spirits paddling alongside me on the river.
Hope to see ya out there.