By Allison Davies
If you’re like me, the idea of loading your little ones into a canoe and hitting the river can be a little daunting at first. And to you I say with confidence, it’s daunting but it’s totally worth it. Sharing the great outdoors with your family is as rewarding as it gets. After seven years of experience taking family-friendly trips, I’ve compiled a few tips for hitting the river with your fam in Grey County.
Snacks, snacks and more snacks
The key to a child’s heart is food—and the key to a child’s heart in a confined space on a river is an endless supply of delectable snacks. Thankfully there are many tasty options near our Grey County paddling routes. If you’re paddling the Beaver River, consider picking up a bagged lunch from Ravenna Country Market, stop in at the Blackbird Pie Company for a dozen butter tarts or hit up the Kimberley General Store for date squares and milkshakes. Hitting Lake Eugenia? Make the Eugenia Falls Emporium and Brilliant Bread and Cheese your pre-launch stop. Planning on the Saugeen River? Pack a box of chocolates from Anastasia’s Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop. If you’re heading out on Georgian Bay, McGinty’s Cafe in Meaford or The Kitchen will help fill your boat with treats. Along the Sydenham, plan a post paddle ice-cream at Harrison Park or stop at the Owen Sound Farmer’s Market (Saturday mornings) or Marketside Cafe in advance. Remember—when you’re looking to keep the kids happy for the last 2k of a paddle, there’s no such thing as too much food.
As an adult, you take your seat in the canoe for granted. Not so for the little ones who often get wedged in the middle of the canoe by the thwart. If you are going on a long paddle, you’ll definitely want to sort out some comfortable options. Many companies make packable kids canoe seats now, (outfitters like Free Spirit Tours and Eagle Adventures offer these with their rentals) and some canoes even come equipped with a middle seat for little ones. If you are going with the bum-on-the-bottom option don’t be afraid to pack a pillow, a blanket and even a few books and toys. Bring along a waterproof camera (or buy a disposable one) and task the kids with documenting the journey and watching for wildlife. Make a fun Paddling Bingo card in advance and have your kids search for things like birds, beavers, turtles, fish and frogs along the route.
Talk safety so there’s no surprises
It goes without saying that every person—adult or child—in your canoe or kayak needs an appropriate personal flotation device. Take the time before you’re on the water to explain why this is important to your kids. Set an example by wearing and not stowing your PFD and make it clear that this boat don’t float until we’re all suited up. It’s also good to talk to kids about the importance of slow, steady movements in the boat – no lurching, no leaning and definitely no standing.
In addition to your lifejacket, Transport Canada requires every human-powered paddle craft (canoe, kayak or SUP) to have a safety kit which can include a sound signaling device, a heaving line, a bailer or pump, a re-boarding device, flashlight, flares, a compass and in certain circumstances, a radar reflector. Requirements vary by boat size and you can learn more on the Transport Canada website.
Plan for the weather
The weather man is a fickle fellow and we’ve all set out on sunny days that quickly turned to clouds and showers. Packing for the worst will ensure you have the best time possible. An extra set of rain gear or a spare umbrella doesn’t take up much space after all. On the flipside, you’ll sunburn much faster on the water, so be sure to bring sun hats, sunscreen and plenty of water.
Pick a route that’s right for you
All the routes on the Grey County paddling map have descriptions and distances. Feel free to call our office (1-877-733-4739) or ask a local outfitter for advice on ideal routes for your family and the latest river conditions.