The Canoe, a Canadian Icon

Nominating the canoe as one of Canada’s wonders, is as Canadian as “fresh water’. Canoe to water, wood to paddle, birch bark to cedar and portage to carry– the elements that came together to provide the resources to traverse one of the most daunting natural transportation systems in North America. First Nations traded canoes and provided early European visitors with the means to explore the vast regions of North America. The canoe is a gift to all Canadians from our First Nations-truly the Canadian Icon.

Take your family canoeing and paddling this summer or fall. Experience one of the many canoe and kayak getaways north in Ontario.Combine a fall canoe trip with one of our fall colour road trips.

My First Canoe


My first recollection of a canoe experience was when my brother found an abandoned fiberglass canoe (in need of serious patching) along a river in the Algonquin Park area. He was into canoeing, and I was into boating (with a motor), a much less arduous task, but as I was to learn, not as pleasant. We used that yellow canoe for a number of years, and patched it many times. On a blustery November evening, a car skidded on the ice, went off the road and hit our free canoe and destroyed not only the canoe but also our dock, a tragic end to many days of pleasure.

Many memorable canoe trips in Algonquin Park followed, usually with rental canoes for day trips and overnight camping, including the infamous portage from lake to lake.

Largest Canoe in Canada

On a trip to the Golden Lake area, I recall visiting one of the local pubs, where hanging on a wall was a black and white photo of the “Largest Canoe in Canada” and the many builders proudly surrounding the canoe. The pub owner had been a boy when he assisted in the building of this canoe, which I believe he said was created for a special exhibit in Montreal. The Canoe then was sent to the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa.

According to the Museum website, “This canoe was full-scale replica of a canôt de maître or a Montreal Canoe which the early fur-traders used. Made by Chief Matt Bernard and his kin in 1957 on the Algonkian Indian Reserve at Golden Lake Ontario.” The canoe combines many of the natural products from the Canadian forests, a birch bark hull, cedar ribs, spruce gum, white ash and spruce roots. This would be of the type that Samuel de Champlain used to come down the French River into Georgian Bay in 1615.

The Museum of Civilization in Canada’s Capital, Ottawa has a significant discussion on the website where they categorize 4 types of watercraft used by First Nations in the various regions of Canada. The four types of watercraft are the kayak, the umiak, the bark canoe, and the dugout canoe.

Canadian Canoe Museum

The Canoe Museum in Peterborough Ontario claims to house the world’s largest collection of paddled watercraft, and should be a must visit for all Canadians. More than 600 canoes await the visitor, along with special events including canoe workshops, learning to canoe courses and more canoe artifacts.

Canada’s Seven Wonders

When I read the CBC website and see the many good reasons for the “Canoe” as one of Canada’s Seven Wonders I can feel my paddle slipping into the water, hear the splash, taste the spray, see the horizon, experience our Canadian natural world, and imagine how it must have existed at a time before Samuel de Champlain, the Jesuits and the Voyageurs.

Take your family canoeing and paddling this summer. Experience one of the many canoe and kayak getaways north in Ontario.