Guest Post: Blazing the ‘Path of the Paddle’ in Ontario

Carrie Nolan is general manager of the Path of the Paddle Association. This article was originally published in the Heart of the Continent Partnership‘s newsletter.

Photo courtesy Path of the Paddle
Photo courtesy Path of the Paddle

What’s the best way to experience the Heart of the Continent? Those with the Path of the Paddle Association (POPA) would tell you it is by canoe or kayak! The efforts of the POPA are for the development, stewardship and sustainability of water trails in Northwestern Ontario, including 1,200 km (750 miles) from Thunder Bay to Manitoba that is the Trans Canada Trail connection in the Heart.

Last summer, two teams of two from Path of the Paddle Association canoed the heart by paddling from Thunder Bay to Grand Portage, then following the border route to Quetico Provincial Park where each turned north to Atikokan, continued on to White Otter and then West to Dryden, Kenora and down the Winnipeg River to the Manitoba border.

Leading the way were POPA’s General Manager, Carrie Nolan, and her husband Jon. They were the first attempted thru-paddlers on the 1,200 km route. In their words, the trip “was full of both muddy moments and magical moments.” Their firsthand route research has led to some changes, such as a re-route of the trail through Quetico. An unforgettable moment occurred on the Pigeon River when they were walking their canoe up a set of rapids, only to look up and see a moose walking down towards them. They froze in place, watching the moose nonchalantly feed and make progress towards them. Once this moose noticed them, she headed into the bush, only to appear upriver, crossing with her two young.

Two weeks behind Jon and Carrie were POPA’s Trail Ambassadors, two students hired to share the trail with those they met while paddling and with those connected via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Hadley Burns and Paul Schram brought so much enthusiasm and skill to their positions. At the end of the trip they awarded a series of ‘bests’ for things such as top campsites, lakes, scenic spots and challenges. The Heart made the list more than once, garnering choice as number one campsite being Partridge Falls on the Pigeon River and The Falls Chain in Quetico being a favourite scenic spot.

Once again in 2016, Path of the Paddle has hired two intrepid student adventurers to paddle the entire water trail this summer. You can follow Brynley and Erik’s 10 week canoe trip at: http://pathofthepaddleamb.wix.com/brynleyanderik.

Carrie Nolan is presenting about her trip at the Great American Canoe Festival in Ely, MN the weekend of June 10-12, 2016.

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