Our regular Monday columnist discusses some lesser-known, yet awesome paddlers on YouTube who capture the glory of paddling in Canada.
The majority of old-school YouTube paddlers are still going strong. Videographers like Jim Baird, Northern Scavengers and Camper Christina are still heading out on trips and pumping out footage of their journeys. So are Xander Budnick and his brother Maxim. Xander’s journey down the Kopka River was epic. So was Keenan’s from Canoe the North. Brad Jennings and his wife, Leah Schmidt, did an incredible job documenting their trip down Quebec’s wilderness of Eeyou Istchee. And Jonathan Kelly’s circumnavigation of Lake Nipigon—the mother of the great lakes—was incredible. However, throughout 2023, there were also some newbies and lesser-known YouTubers showing off epic wilderness canoe trips. Their subscription numbers might be a bit lower than the bigger celebs, and their camera work is a little shaky, but their enthusiasm for being out there and capturing what they witnessed is outstanding. Here are some of my favourite videos from these creators.
“10+ Days Alone in Deep Canadian Wilderness—Solo Camping, Fishing and Wildlife”
Ben paddles the legendary “lost” canoe route in Northwestern Ontario—Steel River loop. He spent 11 days alone, covering over 170 kilometres by canoe. The scenery is breathtaking, the walleye fishing is unbelievable and wildlife encounters—including a timber wolf—were amazing.
Beauty of the Backcountry
“The Steel River Ep 1—Northwestern Ontario's Hidden Gem - A Tough Northern Ontario Expedition” (A three-episode series)
Jay Case and partner Sheri Tuck also paddled the Steel River loop. I’ve done this route a couple of times and wrote about it in one of my guidebooks. It’s one tough trip. Jay and Sheri captured it perfectly. I love their filming style and ability to create a solid storyline.
Adam Romano Explores
“Get Back Home—A Week in The Far North—Kirkpatrick Lake Loop with Tosh Self Propelled”
Adam tags along with another veteran YouTuber—Richard Tosh of ToshSelfPropelled—to tackle the remote Kirkpatrick Lake loop in Ontario’s Algoma region. It’s one of my absolute favourite places to canoe, with turquoise-coloured lakes and trophy-sized brook trout. But it’s got lots of unmaintained portages and brushed-over campsites. Adam captures its magnificence and challenges perfectly.
Gone Camping Again
“Canoeing Lake Superior's Pukaskwa Coast, 10 Day Backcountry Camping”
Elise and Ross Burley paddle for 10 days along Lake Superior's northern coastline from the Pukaskwa River to Hattie Cove. This is a very remote section of Lake Superior—a stunning landscape. Along the way, they explore scenic splendours like Cascade Falls, Pukaskwa Depot and the ancient Pukaskwa Pits. They also brave some nasty storms the giant Lake Superior is known for.
The Dutch Explorer
“24-Day Solo Canoe Trip/THE LAND THAT GIVES LIFE”
Koen Tholhuijsen takes on an epic 24-day canoe trip down the full length of northern Ontario’s Bloodvein River and then continues for another 80 kilometres along the expanse of Lake Winnipeg. The Bloodvein is a fantastic river that flushes through an extensive northern boreal forest. The bonus part of this video, extending the trip onto Lake Winnipeg is epic!
“5 Day 90 km Wilderness Coulonge River Trip—A real test of the Esquif Echo”
Evan Lefebvre, his partner Phoebe Jade and Evan’s father Peter took a five-day, 90-kilometre, canoe trip down Quebec’s Coulonge River from Lac Bryson to Rapides Enragés. It’s a great family journey. All three of them will put a smile on your face. They definitely keep things real for the audience, and there’s a lot of us out there that really appreciate that.
In the Outside
“15 Days in the Algonquin Backcountry: The Movie”
Lots of respect for Rob Spence for his 15-day canoe trip through Ontario’s Algonquin Park. He had a lot of mishaps—including a dislocated shoulder on day two. He lost his Zoleo (emergency communication device), so he put his shoulder back by slamming it against a cedar tree. Rob painfully continued across countless portages and through some nasty wind and rain—and finally, he suffered a complete mental breakdown.
“Descending the Wind—12 Day Yukon Wilderness Canoe Trip on the Wind and Peel Rivers—Part 1” (two parts)
Eric Drost and partner Hilary Croft paddle the Wind and Peel Rivers, travelling through an incredibly wild, rugged landscape of mountains, snow-capped peaks, canyons, whitewater and gravel bars. Part 1 has them beginning at McClusky Lake and paddling a small creek where we enter the Wind River. In Part 2, they continue down the Wind River just downstream of Mount Royal. They pass through two epic canyons at the Wind/Peel confluence and farther down on the Peel. The trip ends with a float plane pick up at Taco Bar and fly back through the Mackenzie Mountains.
“14 Days in the Saskatchewan Boreal—Part 1” (six parts)
I lucked out finding this series by Tyler of Puddle Jumper. The boreal forest section of Saskatchewan has countless canoe routes that are unknown to so many paddlers. This series takes you on a trip in east-central Saskatchewan, Northwest of the border towns of Creighton, SK and Flin Flon, MB. The starting and end point of this trip is just off Highway 135 at the outfitter Slim’s Cabins. It is a two-week, 250-kilometre solo canoe trip with 34 portages and great fishing. Tyler’s entire channel is dedicated to backcountry canoeing and fishing in Saskatchewan. Make sure to check it out.
Two Packs and a Pup
“Canoe Camping in the Temagami Wilderness”
Jen, James and Emma (their dog) take on the gorgeous but rugged Lady Evelyn River in Temagami. The three of them, especially the dog, create a fun, chill and authentic video of an incredible wild piece of Ontario. I’ve done this route several times. It's a beautiful river and the steep, rocky portages make you earn your time there.