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Temagami is Canada's Canoeing Capital

So you're in a canoe with your two daughters, ages ten and 13, paddling across a lonely lake in Algonquin Park. You get out your route map to make sure that you should indeed turn into the bay jutting to the right when a sudden gust of wind takes the map and sends it flying into the water 20 feet away. You watch helplessly as it gradually becomes soaked and disappears below. What to do? Do you panic and perhaps send your kids into tearful hysterics? Or, do you remain calm and announce cheerfully that someone's bound to be canoeing just around the next bend and will know the way back to the parking lot?

This actually happened to a friend who regularly takes her kids on mom-and-child canoe trips. I probably would have panicked, thinking of the worst scenarios- not being found for days and having to ration the granola bars piece by piece to wailing children. Instead, to ease her nerves she started to sing campfire songs. Sure enough, before she'd been through a couple of verses of "Land of the Silver Birch," they met a couple canoeing on the lake who were able to tell them where to paddle in order to get back to the car. Nevertheless, it was a travelling moment she won't forget.

Canoeing certainly can create strong bonds between parents and kids. If you're having an argument, there's nowhere to go, no door to slam to end all communication. I remember how, during my very first time away from home-a month to a neighbor's cottage near Algonquin Park at the age of eight-an aging uncle used to take me out in the canoe after supper as a cure for headaches. Actually, canoeing seemed to be a cure for any kind of stress that befell that large extended family. I've heard about another household who read bedtime stories in a canoe. One summer, they finished much of theSwallows and Amazons series of kid's boating stories, some of it under the moon with a flashlight.

Luckily, Ontario families don't need their own canoes and paddles to take advantage of the miles of water routes. Sure you can take the kids to the wilderness of Muskoka where the canoe routes in Algonquin Park are well known. But continue three hours north up Highway 11, where the deer crossing signs turn into moose crossings, and the noise of Jet Skis becomes nonexistant and you're guaranteeda loon sighting on the lakes. There, you'll reach true canoeing country- Temagami.

For eight years, our family has travelled to these "deep waters by the shore," to pick our kids up from summer camp. With some 1300 islands in the long fjords and bays of the elongated lake and 5000 square miles of interconnecting canoe routes, Lake Temagami is a canoeist's heaven. There is something magical about the light up there, glinting off the pre-cambrian rock or illuminating the oldest white and red pine forest on the continent. Several of the lodges rent canoes. Or, you can camp at the Finlayson Point Provincial Park on Lake Temagami and arrange gear with an outfitter in town. With its playground and two sandy beaches, it's perfect for small children. On site is a tribute to Grey Owl, that legendary British imposter, who wore braids and buckskin and guided white men here on fishing expeditions during the 1930's. After his death, it was discovered that the Ojibwe-adopted "He who travels at night" native was actually Archie Belaney, a kid who became obsessed with the Indian way of life and travelled to the Canadian bush to escape his stultified British family.

On our travels around the lakes, we've seen wild rabbits, martens, beaver and of course, loons and many fish species. The Ministry of Natural Resources is trying to re-introduce peregrine falcons with its nesting boxes on Temagami's cliffs. At a factory in town, families can watch builders make hand-stripped canoes the same way they've been doing it for over one hundred years.

In Temagami, several outfitters such as Smoothwater Outfitters will rent canoes, paddles and child-size life jackets. We bring our own to make sure that they fit well and are not too big. From the town dock, it's a short paddle to Finlayson Point Provincial Park (call 705-569-3205 for camping reservations). Or, you can rent canoes at Temagami Shores Inn and Resort next door, also a good place for a meal out with the kids. Wanapitei Wilderness Centre (705-237-8830) operates a tripping camp for children and parents; they have small paddles and life jackets. Andorra Lodge on Net Lake just north of town (705-569-3288) rents two- and three-bedroom cottages for families starting at $500 per week; a canoe costs $100 extra. For both Temagami and Algonquin Park, Canadian Wilderness Trips (977-5763) offer family outings.

Of course, there are canoe routes closer to home that are good for families, notably the Rankin and Saugeen rivers in Bruce County. Outfitters in Paisley or Southampton will drive you to one point in the river, then pick you and your canoe up at the other end. I'm planning to canoe that route this summer with my kids. And if the mother-daughter communication needs a fix, I just may try and lose the map on purpose.





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