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Welcome to Ontario’s favourite paddling destination.
With thousands of freshwater lakes and rivers carpeting the landscape and with the windswept shores of Georgian Bay showcased here, the great Canadian wilderness is home to the province’s most incredible paddling opportunities. And whether you prefer to canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard, you’ll also find spectacular participation events to dip your blade into.
Hosted by the Ontario Sea Kayak Centre, the Paddlepalooza Kayak Festival runs May 22-24, 2015 at Camp Tapawingo in Parry Sound. The Ontario Sea Kayak Centre has been voted the Best Kayak School in Eastern Canada by the readers of Sea Kayak Magazine, and their annual spring kick-off and skills tune-up is not to be missed. The event includes kayak clinics for all skill levels, with opportunities to learn in sheltered water, in Five Mile Bay, or further off site with “bigger water” experiences. The social aspect to the festival continues when the paddles come out of the water; participants will enjoy campfires, live music and plenty of impromptu fun in beautiful Georgian Bay country.
The festival has teaching sessions, workshops and activities for beginner through advanced kayakers and stand up paddle boarders. Boats and boards are provided, so gather up your girlfriends and head to Parry Sound.
Starting at the docks in Huntsville, Muskoka, on Saturday, June 20, 2015, the Big East River X race follows a 40 km out and back route that travels through the waters of Lake Vernon before following the Big East River to the edge of beautiful Arrowhead Provincial Park. Organized by the same fantastic folks who present the more challenging Muskoka River X, this lighter version includes a 9 km family/recreation race intended for paddlers of all abilities.
Named by the Ontario Marathon Canoe & Kayak Racing Association as “Race of the Year” in 2014, Muskoka River X is touted as the longest, single-day expedition paddling race in the world. The 2015 running of this award-winning event takes place September 11-13. Solo paddlers or tandem teams compete in a variety of watercraft, including solo and tandem canoes, “Kruger” style expedition canoes, kayaks and even stand up paddleboards. Starting and ending at Huntsville’s downtown docks, participants paddle two river systems, three lakes, including the big water of Lake of Bays, and 20 portages for a total of 130 km in less than 24 hours. To make the event even more challenging, solo and team entries must be completely self-supporting. This means no outside assistance – paddlers must carry all the necessary supplies to eat and navigate both in daylight and through the night.
130 KM not tough enough for you? New this year to Muskoka River X is an expanded race that adds 90 extra kilometres to your endeavour. Called the Coureur des Bois race, this expanded route (starts on September 10) seeks to replicate the experience of the canal route expeditions of the 1800s. Paddlers will traverse Algonquin Park from east to west, starting in Whitney and ending at Oxtongue Lake. After what will seem like far too few hours of sleep, participants will then merge with the route of the classic Muskoka River X race on Lake of Bays. At almost 220 km of paddling in 48 hours, only the strongest paddlers will survive. Both the classic Muskoka River X Classic and Coureur des Bois events have limited spots available, so sign up now. (And an Explorers’ Edge tip of the hat to all of you who do…RESPECT.)
Looking for an event that caters to both the recreational and long distance paddlers in your family? Head to the 5th annual Great Muskoka Paddling Experience in Bracebridge on Saturday, October 10, 2015 to discover paddling fun for everyone. Taking place on the Thanksgiving weekend, this event features four race distances, including a 2.5 km fun paddle, a new 5 km race, the classic 10 km and a 20 km marathon distance. All races take place on the Muskoka River with the finish line at Bracebridge’s Annie Williams Park. Head to Muskoka for paddling fun and fantastic fall foliage.
Thinking about upping you SUP game this summer? Why not get involved in one of the 2015 Summer Splash SUP Race Series events. Taking place throughout Ontario over the summer months, these races cover a variety of classifications (elite, open, novice, youth, and age divisions), include courses of varying shape and distance, and are scored on a point system based on finish within each race category. Registration for the races is done online prior to the event, and a BBQ lunch and awards ceremony follows. Kirby’s Beach in Bracebridge will host the first area event on June 13, 2015, and the Muskoka Championships will be held August 22, 2015 at Muskoka Outfitters in Bracebridge.
Not into races but want to head out for a paddle? Plenty of outfitters in the region can set you up with gear, routes, clinics and guided trips. Click here for details. And remember – always wear your personal flotation device (PFD) on the waters of the great Canadian wilderness!
To plan your visit to the great Canadian wilderness, click here. For special offers, click here.
Guest Blogger: Bill Farnsworth
Bill Farnsworth is a freelance writer who has lived in Muskoka for more than 30 years. When not writing, Bill can be found cycling, running, paddling and trying to keep up with his two adventurous boys.