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The Great Trail

Hand painted paddles along the Kenora Harbourfront • Credit: Tracey Chartrand
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The Great Trail

Paddling Sunset Country

Excitement is growing in the summer of 2017 as the Grand Opening of The Great Trail is fast approaching. Learn about paddling 1,200 km of beautiful waters between Thunder Bay and Whiteshell Park.

Excitement is growing in the summer of 2017 as the Grand Opening of The Great Trail is fast approaching. The Path of the Paddle Association has been tirelessly working toward connecting over 1,200 km of waterway, portaging, and hiking trails spanning from Thunder Bay, Ontario all the way to Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba. This pathway is divided into six segments that trace the paths of our ancestors. These same trails were used by First Nation, Métis, and trappers alike. The hard work of all the staff and volunteers of Path of the Paddle is about to pay off in a big way for everyone who loves to canoe, kayak, or row.

In support of the opening of The Great Trail, the Lake of the Woods Museum and Lake of the Woods Art Community have put together incredible exhibits which showcase the vast and diverse history behind canoeing and rowing in the area. No matter what your experience or interest level in canoeing, kayaking, or rowing, the following exhibits are something you’ll want to see.


The Lake of the Woods Museum is offering a unique double feature for the summer of 2017 from July 1 to September 2. Stop by and enjoy both exhibits showcasing many examples of the history of canoeing and rowing in and around the Lake of the Woods area. You’ll see many examples of the tools of their trades at this amazing exhibit, including a striking birch bark canoe and handmade containers for carrying rice and other such goods off the lakes and rivers.

Handmade cedar strip canoe
Handmade cedar strip canoe by Cecil Burns

The biggest highlight of the exhibits for me was this handmade, cedar strip, Pocket Prospector canoe! It sits majestically gleaming under the lights of the museum. Instantly I’m transported to a calm lake with the call of the loon in my ear, the sun peeking through a light fog making the water glisten on a quiet summer morning. Maker Cecil Burns has graciously loaned this beautiful canoe to the museum. He and his colleagues spent more than three years building these canoes in their "Tuesday Night Canoe Club." The work they have done here is incredible and I, for one, thank them for their efforts. This is truly beautiful!

Antique Rowing Machine

Highlighting the rich history of rowing on Lake of the Woods is this example of one of our earliest rowing machines. The design really isn’t that different from what we use now in gyms to practice on. There are many other examples of rowing history in the exhibits, but I’m not going to give it all away: you’ll have to drop in and see them for yourself!

Interactive Puzzles

Also included in the event are interactive pieces such as the one in the photo above, a great way for parents and kids to have some fun together. There really is so much to see: check out all that the Lake of the Woods Museum is offering.


Lake of the Woods Arts Community (LOWAC) is presenting an outdoor Art Exhibit, which spans much of downtown Kenora, including the Harbourfront, Memorial Park, and select local businesses. Examples of local artists’ interpretations of local canoeing are, to say the least, awe-inspiring! 

Reflections of the Path

This beautiful glass-adorned piece, called Reflections of the Path, is just one example of all the artwork that decorates the streets of Kenora! One of my favourite summer things to do in Kenora is to wander the streets in search of this year’s offering from LOWAC. I’m never disappointed by what I see, and this year is no exception. Our local artists have a unique and inspirational way of seeing, interpreting, and presenting the essence of our life in Northwestern Ontario. Spanning from the Harbourfront to the storefronts, you’ll be treated to truly gorgeous pieces of art from our many talented artists.

Even the kids got together to help adorn our city with their own vision of canoeing in Kenora and the surrounding area! It’s awesome to see how LOWAC is encouraging even our youngest artists to reach out and share their artistic vision with everyone. If you would like to see more, just take a stroll throughout downtown Kenora, and don’t forget your camera! Drop into the various businesses displaying more of this exhibit and vote for your favourite pieces (but good luck picking just one). You can learn more about the event and perhaps purchase one of the pieces by going to the events page for LOWAC.


These artworks are reminders of the exhilaration, freedom, and self-empowerment I feel when I’m out paddling some new waterway. I love how pieces like the one in the photo above capture that moment when "you’ve done it"—when you've overcome some obstacle or trial and feel that sense of accomplishment. The medium is aluminum and must have taken many painstaking hours to complete. It really reminds me of the feeling of being out there on the water. Now, where is my canoe?  

Path of the Paddle


Lake of the Woods Museum and Lake of the Woods Art Community have displayed these wonderful exhibits to coincide with the grand opening of The Great Trail. Part of the Path of the Paddle Association’s mandate is “to develop the route into a sustainable experiential tourism product representative of culture and history.” A 1,200-km part of The Great Trail spans Northwestern Ontario which is set to make its official opening on August 26, 2017. There will be many events in several communities attached to it with some of them reaching from Thunder Bay to Kenora. Keep posted on the events on their Facebook page.

In speaking with Ed Shields, who is the Chair of The Path of the Paddle Association, I learned a great deal about the workings of this amazing organization. They have been working on trailblazing and organizing this path for over seven years, with many long hours cutting through trails. There are four main regions for Path of the Paddle: Thunder Bay, Atikokan, Dryden, and Kenora, each with numerous hard-working volunteers. 

Most notable are three groups of people who have run the entire waterway trail from end to end, mapping, marking, and cutting paths through. We have many thanks to give to Carrie and Jon, Erik and Brynley, and Hadly and Paul. To see more of their incredible journeys, you can read their blog stories at Path of the Paddle Thru Paddlers Blog. They blazed the way for so many volunteers to come behind and fully mark and cut trails for portaging.


The six segments of the paddling trail are Animikii, Omimi, Quetico, Maukinak, Migizi, and Iinoo Oowan, each having its own special sights and rich history. If you are looking to start planning your trip try the folks at Paddle Planner. They have a great site with maps, points of interest, and trip reports, just to name a few.

Kenora’s event has been set as well as the other regions. Check out the event closest to you, take the family and go out and enjoy your trail!

As a canoeist, The Great Trail is now on my bucket list. There is so much to see, and I want to take my time to see it all. I can’t wait to dip my paddle in the vast waters and experience it all even if it takes me years to accomplish!

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