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Canoeing 101: A lesson in this popular pandemic activity

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During the pandemic, many people are turning to the great outdoors for exercise and entertainment. Now, many activities are seeing a surge in that pandemic popularity. Caley Bedore hits the water to try a true piece of Canadian culture that has seen a spike in interest during the past year. – May 28, 2021

Canoeing is a true piece of Canadian culture and the outdoor activity has seen a spike in popularity during the pandemic.

“So many people want to go out and for good reason,” said Kevin Callan, author and outdoor educator and publisher of The Happy Camper website. “It is a Canadian thing to do, it is a relaxing thing to do and we really need more of that right now.”

But where do you start? Callan said if it is your first time on the water, avoid windy days, think about taking a course, and go with someone you can communicate with.

He also said to be sure you have proper safety gear on board.

“You need a bailer, a rope, a whistle and a PFD,” Callan said. “By law, you only need to have the PFD in the boat, but if you want it to actually save your life, wear your PFD and when you’re with kids, they wear theirs and you wear yours.”

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Callan added a flashlight is a good item to carry as well, in case you need to signal for help in the dark.

Read more: 2 men and a dog embark on cross-Canada canoe adventure

When it comes to paddling strokes, there are a few basic moves that can make things more efficient on the water.

He said it is a good idea to know the power stroke, the draw, the cross draw and the J-stroke.

“If you’re feeling uncomfortable on the water, like you’re going to tip, you can sit with your knees on the bottom of the canoe and you’re bum leaning against the seat,” he said. “That will give you some more stability on the water, especially in rough water or high winds.”

And if you don’t have a canoe, don’t worry. Many outdoor outfitters have both canoes and kayaks for rent.

Wild Rock Outfitters in Peterborough, Ont., has a booking system online.

Read more: Camping, glamping and the outdoors: What summer 2021 could look like

As for where to go, Callan said Peterborough and The Kawarthas have a number of excellent lakes and rivers for paddling.

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“The Kawartha Highlands is just full of canoe routes,” he said. “Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park is amazing, especially for day trips right now because Ontario Parks has free day passes right now.” (The free passes are available for Mondays to Thursdays).

He also said other great paddling routes include Eels Creek, Bottle Sucker Lake and Mississagi River for an introductory white water run (depending on water levels).

“We really have so many beautiful spots, the options seem endless,” said Callan.

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