Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Favorite Paddling Destinations: Canada

Okay, so the title of this blog includes the word "Paddling." But I haven't posted anything about paddling since starting the blog back in March.

Up until now.

That has now been corrected.

I've paddled canoes for 40-plus years, sea kayaks for 20 years, so I've seen a lot of water, both fresh and salt. As a writer/photographer covering the subject, I've been published in Canoe & Kayak, Canoe Journal, Paddler, Canadian Wildlife, Nature Canada, the Georgia Straight, Fast Forward, Synchronicity, the Calgary Herald, Travel Writers Tales and its affiliated newspapers, Ski Canada (yep, that's not a misprint!), several online sites, and the book, More of Canada's Best Canoe Routes, edited by Alistair Thomas.

These are my favorite places to paddle in Canada. Some of them I've paddled multiple times, some just once - but they're all magic.

You'll notice two things: this is not a Top 10 list, although the total trips I've taken in all these parks combined would equal more than 10. Also, there are not kayak trips included; that's because most of my kayaking has taken place in warm, tropical waters. That'll come in my next blog post, Favorite Paddling Destinations: The World

These are not in any particular order; they're all wonderful trips.

1. Algonquin Provincial Park (Ontario)
This is where I first paddled on an overnight canoe trip without adult supervision, kind of a rite of passage, back in my high school days. I have many fond memories of paddling, hiking and camping here. I've had some incredible wildlife experiences paddling here, including my first heron sighting, first wild deer sighting, first American bittern sighting ... the list goes on.

Beaverlodge: Grey Owl's cabin.
 2. Prince Albert National Park (Saskatchewan)
Visited Grey Owl's cabin at Ajawaan Lake during a trip here, in October 1999. It's a beautiful park, we saw and heard lots of wildlife, including bald eagles, foxes, otters and wolves.

The latter serenaded us from across a small lake with a chorus of howls one morning while we were finishing breakfast.

3. Kejimkujik National Park (Nova Scotia)

Harry Lake, Nova Scotia,
just outside Keji's boundaries.
Once paddled by Alberta Bigelow Paine , the biographer of Mark Twain. Covered part of the same route Paine did in 1908 on a fishing trip in the area, later chronicled in The Tent Dwellers. Encountered deer, loons, owls and porcupines while paddling here.

4. Bowron Lake Provincial Park (BC) Located almost dead-smack in the middle of the province. I've paddled this one twice, the first time just the west leg, the second time, did the entire 110-km circuit. A great trip, both times.

It's a wonderful trip, almost anyone can do it, although some paddling experience would be helpful along sections of the Cariboo River portion of the trip. Both trips, we saw a moose in the exact same place in the same lake. Figured he must be on the park's payroll.

Bowron Lake staff moose.

 5. Dinosaur Provincial Park (Alberta) I was really fortunate to spend three days paddling and camping among the hoodoos and cottonwoods along the Red Deer River that runs through this park, I was with Calgary's Bow Waters Canoe Club at the time, we had to get special back-country permits to camp there. I saw the biggest beaver I've ever seen in my life while canoe-camping here. Also, my first prairie rattlesnake, indigenous to the area.

6. Pinecone Burke Provincial Park (BC)
Paddled here a few times, once as part of a paddling-hiking combo to see Widgeon Falls, the other times as just a day trip through Widgeon Slough. Lots of birds and wildlife to see. There's a recreation campsite at the trail head, giving you the option of camping overnight after a few hours of paddling, before hiking to the falls.

7. Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park (Alberta)
This icy alpine lake features one of Canada's most photographed images: Spirit Island. There are two back country camping areas, one about halfway up the 25-km lake just before Spirit Island; the other at the very end of the lake. The latter is much nicer, because the large boats that take tourists up to Spirit Island do not go past that point, so it's quieter and much wilder.

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