South River site for dog sled races first weekend in March

What started as a Fun Run in 2022 to engage and introduce South River and area residents to dog sledding activities, has in one year grown to a time trial event that lets participants compete for points that in a best case scenario could lead to a world championship appearance as a member of Team Canada.

Local resident Matt Paquette was the main organizer of the Fun Run last year which attracted five participants.

Most of the dog sledders were local residents but one participant was Lisa Degennaro from Paisley, a small community in Bruce County northwest of Mississauga.

Attracting Degennaro to the Fun Run and her seeing the South River trails first hand was fortuitous because Degennaro is also the President of the Sledding Sport Association of Southwestern Ontario (SSASO).

The association is a non-profit group that promotes the benefits of becoming active with your dog in harness-related activities like dog sledding.

“Matt got the Fun Run on our radar,” Degennaro told the Nugget.

“When I saw the trail last year, I immediately saw there is potential here.”

The trails for the upcoming Time Trial and Fun Run event are made up of two loops.

The first loop is designed for activities involving smaller dog teams and is two miles in length.

The second loop is a three mile course and is made for larger dog sled teams of up to six dogs.

Both events take place on trails behind Almaguin Highlands Secondary School with the timed event scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon on March 4th and the Fun Run the next day from 8 a.m. to noon.

Degennaro is expecting up to 20 dog sled teams including two people from Wisconsin who expressed an interest to see what the trails have to offer.

In addition to area residents, other participants are coming from Quebec, the Toronto region and Haliburton.

Degennaro said the number of dog sledders would have been higher but the local event takes place the same weekend when a national dog sled event is also scheduled.

Despite the same timing for both events, Degennaro expects that the South River Dog Sled Time Trial and Fun Run can grow in the future.

Degennaro says the public can interact with the dogs as long as they are not preparing for a race.

She also asks that the public not touch the dogs without first getting permission from the owners.

Degennaro also strongly advises visitors not to bring their dogs to the South River event so that the competing dogs don't become over excited.

Events include two, four and six dog sled races.

There is also a category for one and two dog skijoring where dogs on a harness pull the person on skis.

And then there is the Dog Fat Bike category.

This event sees one or two dogs harnessed to a bicycle with wide tires that are designed to take the rider through difficult terrain including snow.

The points the competitors accumulate can be submitted to the Canadian Harness Racing Association in Ontario which is SSASO's parent organization.

The cumulative points process continues through the system with the ultimate goal being if a competitor can become part of Team Canada for international racing.

Degennaro says for insurance purposes, competitors need to be SSASO members.

Click the link to become a member and then to register for the South River event. The deadline to register is March 1st.

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget