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Toronto’s Backyard Canoeing, On Your Front Door!

You can canoe or kayak the Grand River for a week or a day... it all depends on your time window.

The towering pines and hardwoods of the Carolinian forest rule the shore. Lush groves of willow, cottonwood and sycamore braid the river with islands. The Grand River drops over a thousand feet between its source and Brantford. It is a flow of swifts and pools, and portages are minimal.

The natural flooding levels of the Grand have preserved its pristine conditions. Below Brantford, the last 70 miles of water becomes a wandering Mississippi with an elevation drop of around 50 feet. The Grand is truly like two rivers in one.

In the year 2000, the Grand River won a national award for the best managed river in the world; that is a bragging right worth exploring.

The clarity of the water invites you to swim, and there are cascading springs to drink. It is hard to believe you are in southern Ontario. With the restored waters have come rainbow and brown trout, smallmouth bass, pickerel, pike and over 80 species of fish. And hovering above are eagles, osprey and the ever-stalking blue heron.

There are no moose, but there are deer, beaver, coyotes, mink, turkeys and otters. The Carolinian forest along this river has more specimens of plant and wildlife then anywhere else in Canada, yet it is sitting practically unnoticed right by the nation's largest city.

The area is steeped in history: the Attawandarons, Huron, Objibway and Iroquois have all passed through. The Europeans almost destroyed the valley with their conquest, but with them came a different history too. Come here to paddle through a place of lost hopes and found dreams. You can also see some old gypsum mines, the Grand River Navigation Company, abandoned railway lines, grist mills and dams.

What is also unique about tripping on the Grand is that you don't need the typical 40 kg food packs used on other trips because you can replenish food and water at villages along the way. There are some campsites, but in other places you spend a "print-less" night along the shores if you bring your canoe or kayak. Shuttle services are also available.

An excellent day paddle is the run from Glen Morris to the Brant Park Conservation Area. It has one portage with its six-hour paddle. For those that would like to canoe but prefer a softer approach, the Grand River offers hotels and B&Bs along the way.

This is the perfect river with something for everyone, be they beginner or experienced paddlers.

I have paddled many waters and have no trouble putting out this invitation:

Come ride on the "spirit back" of the Mighty Grand River.
See what won the respect of the ancient Iroquois.
Watch with each stroke as the canvas of the great Carolinian forest opens and c
closes before you.
There is a "timelessness" here...
A great journey ever flowing... but never going home.
Who knows what we discover on these trips...
It is like finding something lost... that was never had.
But when done...
When the paddle is laid down...
When the shore is touched...
You are different...
Even if it is only for the moment of being there.

About the Author: Garth Pottruff is a graduate forester out of Lake Head University. He has experienced the beauty of paddling Quetico and Algonquin, but his hometown favorite is the Grand River. He does learning adventures where you can experience the Grand as you paddle. A trip with him always leaves a yearning for more.

For trips on the Grand River with Garth visit

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