It’s proper protocol to contact the Chiefs of all four First Nations along the Thames River and ask permission to paddle through their territory.

They all answered my request and I even had the Chief of the Oneida people suggest I paddle with Clinton Sickles, environmental rep for the Oneida First Nations. It was his land we would float through and he knew it well. I was honoured to paddle with him that day.

After spotting 12 bald eagles, Clinton and I gave up counting. Add to that, six deer, three bank beavers and a baby raccoon that took a swim down the rapids ahead of us. This was a wilder part of the river with no development around us for the majority of the day.

We spent the time floating on a soft current, chatting about water quality, clear cutting, agriculture—basically how the Thames needs a wider buffer from the surrounding development; how it needs room to breathe.

Clinton also had a few jokes to tell along the way. It felt good to be silly and serious with him during our time on the river.

Kevin CallanKevin Callan

Camping on night-four would be just as quirky as my previous nights on the Thames. This time I pitched my tent in a farmer’s blueberry field. The owners of the farm had organized a dinner with the locals and then invited me to give a presentation on canoe tripping to the audience. Basically I “sang for my supper.” 

It was a good day with good people.

The heat wave continued the next day. I kept to the left bank, searching for shade under the canopy of massive cottonwood and tulip trees. The tulip trees were blossoming, smelling like the perfume of an elderly woman during Sunday Mass.

This is the stretch of river the Voyageurs called a “respectable ditch.” The clay banks rose up all around me and the river twisted and turned, making for a very long day of paddling.

It took me nine hours to reach Big Bend Conservation Area where I camped for the night. It was a tent-and-trailer park operated by the conservation authority and it would be my first real campsite of the trip. I had the place to myself and I portaged up to the first campsite along the river. I filled my water jug and cooked a good dinner of pasta, sauce and dried eggplant. It was nice to be alone on the river for once.

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