Like John Denver, I was born in my 27th year. That’s the year my first book was published—a coffee-table book about canoeing in Killarney Provincial Park. I’ve written a lot more on paddling since then, most being best-sellers. The odd part is that, through it all, I've had to listen to the grumblings of old paddlers, dressed in beige trousers, geeky canvas vests and capped with bright white Tilley hats, telling me that canoeing is a dying sport.
These simple-minded paddlers couldn’t have been so wrong. Just look what’s going on across the country right now for Canada’s 150th. The iconic canoe symbol is everywhere: canoe-themed coffee mugs, keychains, mugs, hats, Frisbees, bumper stickers, tote bags and T-shirts. It’s everywhere. And so are canoeists.
Just this past weekend, I joined 328 paddlers squeezing into the Lift Lock at the Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site in Peterborough, Ontario, for Lock N’ Paddle. The event was organized by The Canadian Canoe Museum, Parks Canada and The Land Canadian Adventures to help celebrate Canada’s 150th and National Canoe Day. It was an amazing event. An assortment of boats—from handcrafted cedar-canvas to cheap hand-me-down Sportspal boats—touched gunwales, rode the lift lock and passed giant beach balls back-and-forth like you would at a crowded rock concert. Amazing!
The next day, I went to a second event where a bunch of social media bloggers organized 150 canoes for Canada’s 150th on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park. In a downpour of miserable rain, paddlers—adorned in Dollar-store Canada Day memorabilia and an assortment of rain parkas—formed a circle in mid-lake and sang the national anthem.
It brought us to tears.
The canoe celebration continues. Just check out social media pages. Canoe gathering are everywhere. Ontario Tourism has even chosen the canoe as their main marketing campaign for the 150th. Check out and join in the conversation about the Canadian Canoe Culture, and read and share your paddling stories on social media by using #PaddleON. Truly amazing!
And if you haven’t checked out their award-winning film “The Canoe”—an incredible documentary that captures the human connection and remarkable bond created by Canada’s well-known craft and national symbol—then you’re just not Canadian.
There’s more young people, young couples, families, new Canadians heading out on canoe trips than ever before. Americans had their chuckwagon and Ten Gallon Hat to help mold their culture—we have the canoe
And now, when I see a car travelling down the highway with a canoe on top I don’t see a poor camper who can’t afford a speed boat—I see a way of life.
And what a good life it is.