Beyond the highways and cookie cutter landscape of suburbia, there’s a surprising abundance of nature. One amazing example is the Grand River, Southern Ontario’s biggest river, flowing 300 kilometres through southwestern Ontario from the highlands of Dufferin County to Port Maitland on Lake Erie.
What makes the river unique, aside from its size, is that it’s bordered by Carolinian forest, which is filled with deer, fox, coyote and wild turkeys. The river itself is home to beavers, otters and muskrat, and if you look up you may see such rare birds as bald eagles, black terns, great egrets, king rails and red-shouldered hawks. The Paris to Brantford section of the Grand River is also home to 80 species of fish, including bass, rainbow trout, brown trout, pike and perch.
So what’s the best way to explore this amazing waterway? You choose! There are several canoeing experiences offered by companies along the Grand River but for those looking to do it in style, the Weekend in Paris Adventure incorporates a bit of Parisian romance and also satisfies one’s sense of adventure. The two day, one night trip starts in historic Paris Ontario. Choose to hike, paddle or bike as you move through beautiful landscapes and view wildlife. Experienced guides will lead you through an outing of nature and history and afterwards you’ll be able to relax in luxury at the historic Arlington hotel and stroll down the Paris main street where there are many quaint shops, riverside cafes and great restaurants.
Rustic travellers may be interested in the Grand Canoe Camping Experience, which is an overnight fully outfitted and guided canoe camping trip to experience scenic historic sections of the Grand River. All gear is supplied in order for you to have a relaxing camping experience. On day two you’ll launch from your campsite and head further down river on the historic Mohawk Run, and also paddle by Brant’s Crossing where Chief Joseph Brant’s Mohawks first settled along the Grand, then past D’Aubigny Creek, a major historical site in the war of 1812.
For day-trippers, The Grand Experience (which runs from April 8 – November 18, 2018) enables you to visit many of the river’s best sights and sounds over a four-hour journey. You’ll come across an abandoned gypsum mine; learn about miners in the early 1800s; and revisit history with an interpretative guide knowledgeable about the Native tribe that frequented those same paths 400 years ago. One travel blogger commented, “Feeling as though you’re truly far away from anything…that’s exactly what I felt while on the Grand River.” That’s the exact point of the voyage say organizers, who want to get city folks out to explore the river’s beauty in all its glory. Every aspect of the trip is organized to showcase the best the Grand has to offer in a comfortable environment.
For those who want to learn new watercraft skills, you can choose a half-day course on basic kayaking that’s combined with a guided trip down the Grand. This course will introduce novice paddlers to paddling a kayak. Another tour offers standup paddleboard lessons while others combine paddling excursions with photography workshops, yoga classes and edible plant hikes.
The Grand was designated a Canadian Heritage River because of all the Native settlements that existed along the Grand River for thousands of years. If you’re not interested in taking one of the guided tours, you can bring your own canoe or rent from an area outfitter or conservation area. With everything that there is to see and do along this glorious waterway, it’s little wonder they call it the Grand.
By Denise Davy