Our canoe was the first possession my husband and I bought together, back in the early days before we were married, before kids and responsibilities and mortgages, when we were still young and foolish. We were driving up north along Highway 28, saw it for sale on the side of the road, and pulled a U turn to go back and buy it. It was an old canvas covered canoe with the canvas stripped off, leaving a gorgeous looking cedar boat. The man selling it told us he wanted “6” for it. Knowing how expensive cedar canoes were, we weren’t sure if he was asking $600 or $6000. After finally figuring out it was $600, which was SO much cheaper than $6000, we bought it on the spot.
I fell in love with the idea of having a canoe after seeing Bill Murray paddling along the Seine in a red canoe in The Razor’s Edge, which gave me all kinds of romantic ideas of canoe ownership. And I have to say we did really have many good times together with this canoe over the years, mainly while camping up in Algonquin Park. It has sat idle for years now, since we had the girls, but I always have the idea in the back of my mind that we’ll pull it out again one day. That day came last Monday when we decide to take the canoe out with the girls and explore the Rouge River. Rouge Park is currently the largest urban park in North America, and the federal government has recently committed to establishing Canada’s newest national park in the Rouge. It’s one of Toronto’s hidden treasures, home to wildlife, hiking trails, two national historic sites, a campground, and the Rouge River itself.
It was an easy paddle – about an hour each way from Glen Rouge Campground where we launched to Rouge Beach on Lake Ontario. We saw a great blue heron. And several tires in the vicinity of the bridge to Highway 401, but that’s probably to be expected for a city river. As we got farther away from the campground, it became quieter. It was a leisurely ride, easy for 1 or 2 people to handle while the others lounged. My oldest read a book as we paddled downriver, and we stopped for a picnic and a little volleyball on the beach. There are areas for fishing, and marshes you can explore near the lake, with a boardwalk for pedestrians. It’s accessible by public transit and it’s free – what more can you ask for?
We had a great, relaxing day. With a stop at Dairy Queen on the way home to cap it off, it was a perfect summer family outing. If you don’t have your own canoe, call Toronto Adventures who run kayaking and canoe trips on the Rouge. It’s another way to enjoy summer in the city.
The view up from our canoe:
And don’t forget to pack some treats to eat!
Photos 2 and 3 by Isabel Maier