Paddling the Rideau Island

Paddlers from Old Ottawa East, the Glebe, Old Ottawa South and Sandy Hill had sunny skies to help their circumnavigation of Rideau Island on September 9. The event was a Canada 150 celebration organized by members of the Old Ottawa East Community. Photo by: Patricia Crosscombe

Paddlers from Old Ottawa East, the Glebe, Old Ottawa South and Sandy Hill had sunny skies to help their circumnavigation of Rideau Island on September 9. The event was a Canada 150 celebration organized by members of the Old Ottawa East Community. Photo by: Patricia Crosscombe

By Tara Hogeterp

On Saturday, September 9, nearly 25 canoes and kayaks slipped into the quiet waters of the Rideau Canal at the Clegg Street dock across from the Canal Ritz. We were embarking on a 20-kilometre journey along the water through Ottawa, circumnavigating Rideau Island.

My family paddled up to Carleton University, our canoe bringing up the rear. It was quite a sight to see canoe after canoe before us on the canal. We made our way to the locks, where we first pulled the boats out of the water. It was a tough first portage, but we made good time and were eager to get into the Rideau River and let the current do some of the work.

Being so close to wildlife along the river was lovely. We saw turtles sunning themselves, ducks, geese, swans, blue herons and cormorants. The bridges along the river were impressive in their own right, in particular Adawe Crossing, Cummings Bridge (Montreal Road) and the stunning white bridges near Old Ottawa City Hall (now Global Affairs Canada). At this point, we took our boats out of the water and portaged down to the Ottawa River.

A number of boats bid us good-bye at Brantwood park. However, 12 canoes and two kayaks made the full journey. Among those were two families (including ours) with some of the youngest children participating, as well as two canoes with dogs.

didyouknowIt must have been quite a sight to see so many canoes being portaged past the Governor General’s residence that day. As we hauled our boats down the steep path to the water, I worried that this third leg of our journey would be tough. However, the weather was kind to us providing sunny skies but cool air, and the wind was at our backs on the Ottawa River. We heard the roar of Rideau Falls, spotted the Prime Minister’s residence under construction and watched cars drive over our heads under Alexandra Bridge. The water was choppy at times so I was grateful to spy Parliament Hill and get to the base of the canal for the final (and steep!) portage.

After a short rest, we made our way up past the locks for the last leg along the canal. We paddled under a raised Pretoria Bridge and when the familiar sites of Old Ottawa East came into view, we knew we were close. Seeing the Clegg dock in the distance, we paddled hard to return home, although we had never been more than 4km from our house all day.

It took us five-and-a-half hours to fully circumnavigate Rideau Island. The journey was not without its challenges for our family. At Brantwood, one of our paddles was accidently taken by an exiting canoe. I had to run barefoot down the road to borrow a paddle from a family who was only doing half the route. The portages were also tough, all of us feeling the weight of paddles, food, water and the canoe.

Our kids were perhaps less than enthusiastic about the journey before we started, but they enjoyed the trip as much as we did and they particularly enjoyed running the rapids at the Adawe Crossing. That said, sharing this journey with other paddlers was what made it so special. We chatted along the water, at rest stops and shared our stories at our post-paddle picnic in Brantwood Park.

Of all the Canada 150 activities we participated in this year, I have to say that this one was the most memorable and our family favourite.

Thanks

This event would not have been possible without the hard work of organizing committee. A special thank-you to John Dance, who came up with the idea and lead the group. Thanks also to: Don Fulger, who took care of registration and paddled the trial run in the spring with Fred Simpson and Suzanne Gagnon; Denise and Stuart Inglis, for the superbly organized and run BBQ following our paddle; Jamie Brougham, who ensured we had access to washrooms along the route. (Thanks to you Tara, for handling all the communications and outreach! – Editor)

Other special thanks to: David Chernushenko for joining us and contributing to the BBQ, Carol Workun and CAG, the NCC, Parks Canada, the Aqua-Taxi, Catherine McKenna who provided flags, the Green Door who provided delicious salads, Pat Crosscombe for following us along the route and photographing the event and Steve Fick for designing the perfect map.

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Filed in: Environment, FP, Front Page

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