Local canoeists looking for new route

Although it has been a fixture on their summer schedule since 2000, no United Native Friendship Centre youth group will be paddling from Fort Frances to Rainy River this year as they usually do in mid-August.
But Ryan McMahon, the program co-ordinator for the UNFC’s Urban Multipurpose Multicultural Youth Centre (UMAYC), insisted last week the annual canoe-a-thon, dubbed “Paddling for a Purpose,” will be back in 2006.
“A couple of the youths were a bit disappointed,” McMahon noted. “But we reassured them that we’re making moves for next year.
“We are still moving ahead with planning it for next summer.”
However, by the time the UMAYC paddlers hit the water next year, their summer canoe trip—which started as a fundraiser but now focuses on simply raising awareness for an issue—will have undergone a major facelift.
McMahon said the young canoeists likely have made the foray down the Rainy River for the last time. The next trip probably will see them dip their vessels in Rainy Lake instead.
McMahon noted while the Fort Frances-Rainy River trip does have its perks, it’s not the best voyage to take a group of youngsters on.
“It’s a very, very long, boring paddle,” he said matter-of-factly. “It’s not a user-friendly trip. It’s a challenging trip and it’s a beautiful trip, but it’s not worth taking youth on at this point.”
McMahon noted that in order to finish the voyage from here to Rainy River—a distance of nearly 100 km—in three days, the kids were spending long hours on the water.
“Each day is usually, depending on the weather, 10 to 12 hours long,” he remarked. “Most of our youth are inexperienced paddlers. Struggling [down] the river to Rainy River takes an experience paddler eight hours a day, if they want to make good time.”
A testament to his point, it took the youth group nearly 13 hours last year to complete the first leg of their journey—from Fort Frances to a camping spot in Emo.
“That’s a lot of paddling,” McMahon said, adding that spending that long on the river leaves very little time for the canoe-trippers to “sit around and relax or swim, or even get to know each other.”
As an alternative to paddling the Rainy River, McMahon has been exploring new waters, like the old “Canoe for Cancer” route from Turtle River to Fort Frances via Rainy Lake.
That’s where a little help from the public could go a long ways. McMahon isn’t too familiar with the lake and he’d like to paddle any potential routes himself before he commits to taking youths along.
With that in mind, mapping a new route in time for this year would be impossible, McMahon said, but he’d like to get a head start on planning a trip for next summer.
He’s urging anyone with knowledge of the lake who might be able to provide some advice to contact him.
“One of the things that we’re really big on is that if we’re going to do Rainy Lake, we do it first as [program leaders] so that we know what we’re getting our youths into,” he stressed.
McMahon can be reached at 274-0561.
About 20 youngsters, from both Fort Frances and Kenora, took part in “Paddling for a Purpose” last year. But while the canoe trip is off this summer, McMahon noted the UMAYC still has plenty of activities planned to keep the kids busy.
In addition to attending the Eagle Lake pow-wow last weekend, UNFC staff and a handful of youths will be attending a “cultural camp” in Rosso River, Man. later this month.
As well, the UMAYC will be hosting its second-annual “Girl Power” camp at the end of August.