We want to go canoeing and feel like we’re in the wilderness up north without actually having to drive up north. Waterloo Region is perfectly situated. It’s not too far, and yet far enough. The Grand River that meanders through it, a cherished Canadian Heritage Route, feels remote even though it’s so easily accessible.
We meet our Grand Experiences guide in Cambridge at a parking lot by a gas station, walk down to the beach and away from civilization. The river is wide enough for canoes and kayaks to share, and as we set out on our urban-paddle we feel worlds away. There’s the occasional fly fisherman, standing waist deep, casting a line that ribbons through the air like a slow-motion lasso. Hikers sit on the bank, taking a break to breathe in some tranquility. A calm rush of water torques up our speed and laces the breeze with the sound of gentle rolling applause. We snack on some local raspberries and teriyaki Buffalo jerky, and drift.
“Which way do you want to go?” Our guide, John, asks. So many islands dot the river with green, copper, red, yellow and gold. It’s gorgeous. And we’re free to paddle whichever way we want to go around them. Smooth rocks and boulders that were completely submerged in spring make an obstacle course for us now. As we approach a squall, I ask my son, “Hey, you wanna help me out—maybe try paddling?!” “Nope” He says. “You need the exercise,” he sweetly admonishes, as he leans back and assigns me the role of gondolier.
How great would it be if we stopped to do some fishing? Smallmouth and largemouth bass, northern pike and yellow perch are among the bounty of this section of the river. The Grand is one of the best managed rivers in the world and renowned for its water quality. It’s so clear. My son’s fingers trail in the water as John shares with us the story of the river and of this rare Carolinian forest, including the range of trees that we see, and the birds chirping, whistling and serenading us as we pass. It’s a beautiful paddle, and one in which we almost forget where we are. When we reach the beach down river, we pull up our canoes while others put theirs in. Cyclists and hikers relish this recreational paradise. It’s a quick cab ride back to our car. John arranges that. Our Grand Experience is an easy trip to the wilderness, without the hassle of transportation.
For more information on all season outdoor adventures check out: Grand Experiences and Explore Waterloo Region.
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Publisher of DINE and Destinations magazine.