On July 23rd, the Mattawa River Canoe Race returns to celebrate its 45th year. Covid put the race on hold for two seasons, but the event returns with 97 paddlers eager to participate. The race begins early Saturday morning at Olmsted Beach on Trout Lake and ends at the Mattawa Island Conservation Area.
In total, the race covers 64 kilometers, although there are shorter runs to accommodate all experience levels. The North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority hosts the race, and as this year marks the Authority’s 50th anniversary, organizers are thrilled by the event’s return.
“It’s a great way to celebrate” the anniversary, said race coordinator, Paula Loranger. “We have paddlers from Southern Ontario, Ottawa, Quebec, and even Pennsylvania,” she added, noting the event is a popular draw as “many paddlers come from across the province.”
Those paddlers will be in canoes, kayaks, and balancing on stand-up paddleboards for their journey. The first wave of racers leaves Olmsted beach at 7:30 a.m., “with categories leaving every fifteen minutes,” Loranger said. The public is welcome to come out to cheer on their favourite rower. The 13 km family and youth race leaves Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park at noon.
There are also competitive and recreational categories. “The race has something for everyone,” Loranger noted, and the family and youth race categories “are perfect opportunities for younger paddlers to experience the thrill of the race and the history of the area.”
Thrilling indeed, as the race also includes portage trails to make the day all the more challenging. Organizers are also waiting for someone to break the last record for the fastest finish. That was back in 1995 when one rapid racer crossed the line in five hours, 27 minutes, and 53 seconds. Now you have a goal.
The Conservation Authority is also hosting a hike through the Eau Claire Gorge on July 22nd as part of the Mattawa River Canoe Race weekend.
See: It’s ‘forest bathing’ time at Eau Claire Gorge
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca