There is nothing better to paddle than a river. I find it to be a perfect metaphor for life.
To paddle a river and enjoy it forces you to be in the moment, if you continually worry about the end you will drive yourself nuts. You have to be aware of your surroundings and flexible to the unexpected surprises. It can be easy enough for a beginner, or challenging enough to surpass the skills of an expert. And it will always go smoothest if you are working together and communicating clearly with your partner
I first fell in love with rivers in my youth. I spent time every summer camping on the shores of the Black river, just outside of Washago. Days spent catching frogs and bug bites in swampy offshoots; bumps and bruises from hours of play in the rapids and other fantastic memories that come from time spend in natural landscapes.
I have so many life affecting memories of this 1-kilometer section, but it wasn’t until I had dinner with a friend a few weeks ago that I discovered how very narrow my view of this amazing river was.
Over the course of two hours we took to “Dr. Google” to find out more, and although there isn’t a plethora of information, this is a river with a history and an active and current story too long to fully cover here.
For me the most surprising element was its physical length. Using Google earth view we followed the ever-winding path backwards from Washago until we lost it around the Haliburton Forrest. It just kept going and going, and according to my research we didn’t even see it all.
After having traveled great distances in my life to find and paddle rivers; here was one in my very own back yard that I have all but ignored since my youth. I promise you the challenge has been accepted, and I will paddle the Black River. But as with all worthy challenges, being prepared will be my biggest asset.
Even a quick search will find many route options, sections with varying degrees of difficulty. From a slow meandering, flat river to white water. In fact, in the early spring the Black River often hosts groups doing introductory level white water courses. It serves as a place to practice their skills for bigger rivers.
But paddling the Black River is not as simple as just putting in and going. There are many privately owned properties along its banks. This includes the portion that travels through the Chippewas of Rama territory. Often white water or various blocked sections will require getting out on land to pass the obstruction. Seeking permission is key to maintaining a respectful relationship. Let me be blunt, if it is private property and you don’t have permission, it is trespassing.
Although this river is not as heavily used as many others throughout central Ontario, it still needs us to protect it both from an environmental standpoint and for recreational use.
The Couchiching Conservancy, our tireless nature crusaders, are in the midst of fundraising efforts to buy a 730 acres parcel next to the Queen Elizabeth II Wetlands which, will be run in partnership with Ontario Parks. The Black River winds a total of 4.4 km through this property guaranteeing this section is protected and accessible to paddlers.
I encourage you to get to know the Black River. Once you introduce yourself, I know you will become fast friends. And as with all good friendships, it won’t always be easy, but what you get out of it affects who you are far beyond your surface.
As Lynn Noel, who was the director of River Programs for the Quebec-Labrador Foundation, wrote:
“The first river you paddle runs through the rest of your life. It bubbles up in pools and eddies to remind you who you are. “
Meegan Scanlon is a volunteer with The Couchiching Conservancy, a non-profit land trust dedicated to protecting the special natural places in our region for future generations. To learn about the potential new property, or to donate to the acquisition fund, please click here.