Canada 150 Celebrations: in Voyageur Canoes…

Canada’s Four Winds Brigades (South wind on the Rideau, West wind, coming down the Ottawa from Mattawa, East Wind coming from up the Ottawa from Montreal, and North Wind, coming down the Gatineau to Ottawa) will be arriving at Victoria Island on Canada day, 2017. This is a once in a lifetime event and you can be there to welcome the brigades.  For more information about the Four Winds Brigades visit their site at:

Max and The Southwind Brigade Flag

Renowned Paddler Max Finkelstein will be leading the South Wind Brigade up the Rideau from June 23 to July 1 of 2017.

Posted in Community Involvement, Cultural interest, Culture, Education, Environmental, Heritage, Historical interest, Paddling, Sustainability | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Connected by Canoe – meet the crew in Smiths Falls on May 6th

On May 2nd, a diverse group of 16 paddlers will be given a send-off at The Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough before heading to Kingston where they will launch a 10-day, 2-part journey through the Rideau Waterway in a 36-foot Voyageur Canoe destined for Ottawa.

This journey, called Connected by Canoe, is a sesquicentennial project of The Canadian Canoe Museum and Community Foundations of Canada in partnership with the Ottawa Community Foundation, Parks Canada, and other community organizations along the Rideau Waterway. You can visit their website at: for more information.

On Saturday, May 6th they will be travelling from Perth to Smiths Falls, and will be staying in our community overnight before continuing on their way towards Ottawa the next day.

In partnership with Parks Canada, the Town of Smiths Falls would like to invite you, as members of the local paddling community, the Rideau Roundtable or the Rideau Paddlefest organizing committee, to join us in welcoming the paddlers to Smiths Falls.

We will gather with the paddlers at the Parks Canada Visitor’s Centre on the evening of May 6th for a buffet-style dinner, conversation, and local entertainment.

If you are interested in meeting up with the paddlers at the visitor’s center in Smiths Falls, please RSVP to

Posted in Community Involvement, Cultural interest, Education, Heritage, Paddling | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What will climate change look like in the Boreal Shield of Canada?

Scott Vaughan, the past Canadian Commissioner of the Environment did a wonderful talk at the Roundtable’s last Speaker Series Event. One of the most interesting parts of his talk were his descriptions of the history and operations of the Experimental Lakes Area Project which is now being run by the International Institute for Sustainable Development with funding from the Ontario Government. This world-class, one-of-a-kind project provides scientists from around the world a “real-world” laboratory for studying how various stressors (like climate change) affect lakes in boreal shield lakes.

Here is a short video (3 minutes) that Scott shared with us, courtesy of the folks at the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD.ORG / @iisd_ela). The video describes how scientists are using the experimental lakes area to project the consequences of climate change on fish and other parts of the lake ecosystems. We hope you enjoy it.

Posted in Climate Change, Community Involvement, Education, Environmental, Governance, Regulation, Sustainability, Water quantity management | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What will climate change look like in the Prairies?

When we think of climate change, it is often difficult to think about how it will play out in our lives (or our children’s lives). At one of our recent Speaker Series Events, Scott Walker (the past Commissioner for the Environment and the current President and CEO of the International Institute for Sustainable Development) ran a short video which our audience found helped them understand what to expect over the rest of this century.

One of the ways we interact directly with the climate is through the temperatures that it brings our way. Everyone is familiar with what a hot day is like. A 35 degree Celsius day now and then is a real blessing…it feels wonderful to luxuriate in the warmth, especially after a cold winter.  But we also know what it is like to have 4 or 5 days in a row with temperatures above 35 during the day and little respite in the evenings.  That begins to become onerous.

This little video, by the Prairie Climate Centre (@PrairieClimate) and provided courtesy of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD.ORG) presents graphically the number of days we can expect to get that will be above 30 degrees Celsius starting back in 1981 and projects the number of days that will be above 30 degrees between now and 2095. The video doesn’t attempt to demonstrate the effects of having an increasing number of hot days, but it gives you an idea of how many you will be subjected to if things continue as they are now.


Posted in Climate Change, Community Involvement, Education, Environmental, Sustainability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best practices in the regulation of inland waters with Scott Vaughan


Scott Vaughan

Did you know that the Rideau Roundtable hosts a speaker series. Well, we do! And the theme of this year’s series is sustainability in an era of climate instability. We have had two excellent talks already in this series and our third one is in the queue for Tuesday, September 13, 2016.

Our speaker for this event is Scott Vaughan, and if that name rings a bell it is because Scott was Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and he is now the President and CEO of the International Institute for Sustainable Development. Scott has taken time out of his busy schedule to do a talk for our group entitled Canada’s Freshwater – Flowing to the Future! This talk will focus on best practices in the regulation of Canada’s most precious resource, its inland waterways.  He will be hitting regulation aimed at habitat / wildlife protection, the management of water quality and quantity, and sustainable development that allows for resource use in a way that respects the environment, public health, local communities and other stakeholders.

If you are a planner (municipal, provincial or federal), a conservation authority, a River Keeper, a government regulator, an academic, or if you are simply a concerned citizen or community group member this talk is for you!

The poster for the event with Scott’s bio and a brief description of the Rideau Roundtable can be found below.

The Rideau Roundtable Presents Scott Vaughan


Posted in Sustainability | Leave a comment

Rideau Paddlefest 2016 Programme of Activities

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Lower Reach Park, Smiths Falls, ON


We look forward to your participation in Rideau Paddlefest 2016, taking place on Saturday, August 6 at Kinsmen’s Lower Reach Park on the beautiful Rideau Canal in Smiths Falls.  We thought you might like to know, ahead of time, a little about the company you will be keeping.


Our 8 Voyageur Racing Teams have been training in the Rideau Roundtable’s 34-foot replica Voyageur canoes in which they will race, under the tutelage of Canadian paddling adventurer-extraordinaire, Max Finkelstein.  Races will begin at 0900.

Spontaneous racing teams will likely develop on-the-day so don’t be shy about stepping up!!

Leisurely paddling tours of the canal will be ongoing, 10 to 5, free of charge for all ages and levels of experience, interpreted by Parks Canada staff.  These will be led by the Bron family in their two 25-foot ‘big canoes’.

We are delighted to welcome Becky Mason, daughter of paddling icon Bill Mason, to perform her Canoe Ballet, periodically throughout the day.  Also, Harmony Dawn of Urban Ocean will demonstrate paddling stand-up paddle-boarding. Interns from Paddle Canada will also demonstrate paddling techniques for tandem canoes and kayaks.  [We may also have the honour of welcoming a team of young paddlers from the Mohawk Nation of Akwasasne who have been busy touring the region this summer and hope to make Paddlefest a port of call.]


Siloki Party ~ Laser Tag, Bean Bag fun and games for the family

FUNtasy ~ face painting and glitter tattoos

Arts Council of Smiths Falls ~ cut out and decorate a canoe and paddles


Canadian Museum of Nature ~ aquatic life, esp. minnows, mollusks and algae

Parks Canada – Species at Risk

Rideau Roundtable’s ~ amphibians and turtles

Watersheds Canada ~ shoreline naturalization

Rideau Environmental Action League REAL storm-water management

Rideau Valley Conservation Authority RVCA reports on the State of the River

Canadian Wildlife Federation ~ wildlife of the Rideau Corridor


Friends of the Rideau ~ books and stories on the history of the canal and UNESCO designation

Heritage House Museum ~ pictorial exhibit of the history of the Falls and the Canal


Rideau Community Health Services – Community Engagement Committee ~ healthy living & primary care

Merrickville Bridge to Canada ~ pictures and info on Syrian refugee crisis & efforts to bring a family here

Town of Smiths Falls ~ info materials on range of community services, esp. as related to healthy living


SFDCI Native Studies Students will set up an installation of their artwork and be on-hand to interpret it. Costumed cast members of Bridge to Terabithia will be seen roaming the site throughout the day. (The show will play at the Station Theatre Aug 19 to 28.)

Music will begin at 10 with performances by the Voyageur Singers and SFDCI music students, both singing a selection of traditional Voyageur songs.


We are thrilled to have performances by award-winning fiddler Ellen Daly (2-3 p.m.), classic rock band The British Invasion (3-4 p.m.), and Ottawa’s “Blues Lady” Maria Hawkins (4-5 p.m.)

Highlights of Maria Hawkins’ 30-year professional career include opening for Colin James, performing with Amanda Marshall, and bringing blues music education to area schools. Trained in the Royal Conservatory of Music method from the age of five, Hawkins is known for community service as well as musical ability. She has received a number of awards, including the Woman of Distinction award from Ottawa’s YMCA-YWCA, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal.


Available from Kinsmen Pavilion featuring healthy choices as well as traditional items.   Products from Wonton Crunch will also be show cased.   Wonton Crunch is a local family business featured in CBC’s Dragon Den.


We would like to thank our sponsors for making this event possible:
Town of Smiths Falls, Tweed,  Kilmarnock Enterprize,  Wills Transfer, Canadian Tire, Metroland Media Inc. , Innovative Logic, Rotary Club of Smiths Falls,  Smiths Falls Nissan,  Hanks Tires,  Schur’s Auto Repair, Healey’s Transportation,  Andress Independent, Impression Printing,  Siloki Family Centre, and  Wonton Crunch,

Come, bring your family and friends, and have an enjoyable day of fun and activities.

Posted in Community Involvement, Cultural interest, Culture, Education, Environmental, Exercise, Heritage, Historical interest, Paddling, Sustainability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rideau Paddlefest 2016 is looking for volunteers

Calling All Volunteers

  • Are you looking for an interesting volunteer experience?
  • Are you interested in a fun day by the water?
  • Do you need volunteer hours?
  • Do you have lots of enthusiasm?
  • Are you 14 years of age or older?

Then we have just the thing for you!

The 2016 Rideau Paddlefest

August 6, 2016,  8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Lower Reach Park, Smiths Falls, Ontario
Contact our volunteer coordinator, Lin at

Role of the Volunteer

Volunteers are key members of our event planning team, playing critical roles the day of the event in assisting the organizers with a number of functions and in supporting all attendees in having a fun-filled, safe day that will be remembered into the future.

The following are a list of activities for which volunteers are required:

  1. Assisting with event set-up and take-down (2-6 volunteers)
  2. Facilitating parking (2 volunteers)
  3. Assisting voyageur canoe races: (4 volunteers)
  • Maintaining an organized inventory of paddles and life jackets,
  • maintaining the race schedule by helping teams find their paddles and correctly sized life jackets, and helping teams get into and out of the canoes efficiently,
  • providing drinking water to the paddlers,
  • supporting the race gouvernail and officials as requested.
  1. Assisting bands with equipment (2 volunteers)
  2. Assisting with family oriented water based events (2 volunteers)
  3. Assisting at the registration desk: (2 volunteers)
  • collecting and collating waiver forms,
  • coordinating door prize draws with Master of Ceremonies,
  • providing assistance to educational exhibitors and vendors as requested,
  1. Assisting with voyageur canoe tours for the public (2 volunteers)

Volunteer Orientation

The Volunteer Coordinator for the races and training sessions is Lin Kulkarni. Volunteers have the opportunity to meet Lin Monday to Thursday evening, during the week prior to the event, at Lower Reach Park. Volunteers are invited to attend the race team training sessions that will be held on evenings the week prior to the races. During this time, you will become familiar with the equipment and have the opportunity to join a team to paddle a voyageur canoe.

Event Day Instructions

All volunteers will meet the day of the event at 8:00 a.m. at Lower Reach Park in Smiths Falls, where they will receive information regarding volunteer roles and will be able to select preferred activity to assist with. Lin will be your “go to” person the day of the races to provide directions and assist you as required. She can be reached with any questions at

We estimate that we will need approximately 16 volunteers, with as many as 6 arriving early to assist with event set-up.

Posted in Community Involvement, Cultural interest, Culture, Education, Environmental, Exercise, Heritage, Historical interest, Paddling, Sustainability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canoeing author to share experience

by Chris Must

Cross-country paddler Max Finkelstein will visit Smiths Falls June 9 to share the experiences that led him to write two books about his travels.

After spending the summers of 1997, 1998 and 1999 paddling across the country following the route of early explorer Alexander Mackenzie, Finkelstein wrote “Canoeing a Continent,” first published in 2002. He is also the author of “Paddling the Boreal Forest,” a 2004 book describing canoe voyages across Labrador and northern Quebec in the wake of 1890s geographer A.P. Low.

Max lecturing on paddling

Max during one of his many speaking engagements on Paddling, its cultural significance and environmental impacts.

Finkelstein will describe these experiences in a presentation at the Kinsmen Pavilion in Lower Reach Park, Smiths Falls at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 9. Admission is free. In 1994 Finkelstein, who has a science background and had been working mostly as a writer for Parks Canada, was hired as a communications specialist for the Heritage Rivers System. “That position was almost made for a person like me”, he said.

Retracing the routes taken by explorers like Alexander Mackenzie and A.P. Low gave Finkelstein enormous respect for what the early voyageurs had done. “It’s more than an appreciation, it’s awe for both those guys”, he said. “That they could travel far with pretty limited resources shows me people were really tough.”

Finkelstein’s desire to encourage people to celebrate their heritage by continuing to use replicas of these early canoes led him to become a founding member of the volunteer committee organizing Rideau Paddlefest, held in Smiths Falls each summer.

The third annual Paddlefest, featuring voyageur canoe races, will be held at Lower Reach
Park Saturday, Aug. 6.

Posted in Community Involvement, Cultural interest, Culture, Education, Environmental, Exercise, Heritage, Historical interest, Paddling, Sustainability | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paddlers, sponsors signing on for Paddlefest 2016

By Chris Must

What could be more Canadian than paddling a canoe? Paddling enthusiasts will once again have the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and indulge in a little friendly competition as the third annual Rideau Paddlefest comes to Lower Reach Park in Smiths Falls Saturday, Aug. 6.

Co-chaired by Peter Au and Pat Graveline, the volunteer Paddlefest committee has already secured sponsorship from Kilmarnock Enterprise, Wills Transfer, Innovative Logic, Impression Printing, and Metroland Media. The Town of Smiths Falls recently approved a grant of $2,000 to support the festival,
which is billed as a cultural, historical, community-based sporting event centred around voyageur canoe races. The committee is also grateful for the financial support of Tweed Inc.

In addition to canoe races, the festival will offer paddling demonstrations and voyageur canoe tours of the Rideau. Waterfront activities will include demonstrations of paddle boarding and kayaking.
Educational displays and special children’s activities are planned, and live music will be offered from 2 to 5 p.m. Aug. 6. The line-up of entertainment for the afternoon has been confirmed, and will include performances by fiddler Ellen Daly, classic rock and R&B band Straight Shooter and an headliner to be announced shortly.
Participants will have the opportunity to try out a variety of canoes, kayaks and paddle boards.
Teams of 15 are invited to register for the voyageur canoe races. Registration fees are $500 per 15-person team, or $50 per individual. An early bird team registration fee of $450 is offered up to May 31.

To register, call Ken at 613-592- 6316, or email

“As well as offering a full day of fun activities, we hope to attract visitors to Smiths Falls, and to promote sustainable use of the Rideau waterway, this fantastic resource right here in our own backyards,” said Au. The Rideau Canal has been designated as a world heritage site, he noted.
Graveline said the volunteer committee also wants to promote physical activity, and to increase awareness of Smiths Falls’ waterfront assets, and appreciation for everything the town has to offer.
“Our committee envisions a celebration of sport paddling, competition, local history, nature, cuisine and the arts,” added Au.

Posted in Community Involvement, Cultural interest, Culture, Education, Environmental, Exercise, Heritage, Historical interest, Paddling, Sustainability | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Voyageur Canoes on the Jock River! (by Max Finkelstein)

Nine paddles slice the water in perfect synchrony, powering the canoe forward through the rapids. Or at least that is how my mind imagines the scene from my position in the bow of the canoe. The sun shines down  on us from a crackling blue sky, icicles hang from the gunwales, and the fingers of my gloves are frozen solid and slip on the icy paddle shaft – wait a cotton-pickin’ minute here….what’s all this about  icicles and frozen fingers, and how can it be there are NINE paddles in imagined perfect harmony?

What is going on here is a minor historic Canadian moment – the first ‘Canot du nord’ (North Canoe) (26’ long) to compete in the Upper Jock River Paddling Race. – probably the first North Canoe to ever paddle on the Jock River. The Jock River is affectionately known as ‘the Mighty Jock’. To call it a river is a bit pretentious – it is really just a stream, but a lovely stream that winds through hardwood swamps and wetland and agricultural fields, the picturesque town of Richmond, sneaking through the backyards of suburban Ottawa as it picks up speed and tumbles down rapids on its way to join the Rideau River.

In spring, the Jock is transformed into a river by the spring runoff, and on one day each spring, since 1971, an annual rite of spring takes place on the Mighty Jock – the Jock River Paddling Race. Initially, the race was held from the town of Richmond to the confluence of the Jock with the Rideau. This first iteration of the race had some challenges – icy waters, tricky rapids and ill-placed bridge abutments that occasionally became adorned after each race with the carcasses of canoes wrapped around them. Did I forget to mention the concrete base for a weir with re-bar sticking out of it? All these factors lead to the decision in 1996 to move the race to the more pleasant waters of the upper Jock, a 12.6 kilometre section with shallow rapids and a lovely sinuous course through one of the Ottawa area’s most significant wetlands, the Richmond Fen.

I’m proud to say that I have competed in most of the races on the Jock, and won medals in both the upper and lower Jock races in an imaginative variety of ways in many categories. I’ve raced solo, with various kids, friends, family, even once with Mark Oldershaw, Olympic sprint canoeist, as my bowman, not long after he had won a medal at the Games. One spring when the race was still run on the lower Jock, and the river was extremely ‘boney’, I switched from my fancy but fragile racing canoe to a beat-up plastic white-water canoe at the top of the rapids. Jock River Race 2My proudest moment in my extensive Jock River Race history was winning the family class with my wife Connie, our son Isaac, then six, and our three-legged dog Mica. Mica is the only canine to have his name inscribed on the coveted Trailhead Cup, which at that time was awarded to the Family class winners.  A few years later, Connie and I escorted our son Isaac down the course when he paddled it solo in a fat red kayak when he was just nine. The biggest challenge of the day was rushing him to and from his hockey playoff games, before and after the race.

This spring, I was puzzling over how to earn a medal in the race this year. I had spent the winter convalescing from old injuries and ailments that decided to catch up to me all at once, and was in no condition to race anything. So I had an idea! Although, over the years, there have been canoe and kayak racing classes for elite racers, families, parent/child, high school, greybeards/grey-mares, SUPS, best dressed, and more … there has never been a class for Big Canoes! So I contacted my friend Ray D’Allaire who owns a big 26’ “Canot du nord”, and asked him if he was up for it. Ray enthusiastically said “YES!”, and the race was on for us.

We put out the word (thank you Liz Elton, for knowing every paddler on the continent … we had offers from as far away as Washington, DC and Albany NY; thank you Connie, my one true love, for paddling right behind me all the way, and thanks you to the rest of the crew who were unfailingly enthusiastic, uncomplaining and cheerful!) and soon had a crew on nine, with Ray steering at the stern, and me setting the pace and dong my best to miss all the rocks and logs at the bow. At least that was the plan.

I paddled the course the day before the race with master paddler and safety-crew organizer Dot Bonnenfant, and the two race organizers, Gaetan and Ian. It was a lovely day, with ice along clinging to the tree trunks in the fen, and light snow falling. We flagged a few submerged logs with orange tape, and I was confident that there was just enough water to slide the big canoe down the rapids without scraping too many rocks.

Ray and I had discussed getting the team together to practice, but with the cold winter weather for the week before the race, and our last-minute arrangements, we realized that was not possible.

“We’ll just run it cold”, Ray said a few days before the race. He did not realize then how deadly accurate that statement would turn out to be.

Race Day. Temperature: -17…with the wind, but there was almost no wind.

But it was bright and sunny, and probably only -6 by the start time at high noon. The coldest Jock River Race ever. But over 100 hardy paddlers came out to celebrate this annual rite of winter, er…I mean spring.  We loaded our crew into the big canoe, practiced a few eddy turns and upstream ferries, and declared our team ‘race-ready’.

A few hundred metres from the start is a shallow rapid, followed by a narrow chute of fast water. The crew was working together, and we manoeuvred down the rapids as if following a six-inch wide piece of tape that showed our course down the deepest part of the channel. The tape is in my mind, of course, not on the water! We managed to negotiate all the sharp turns in the fen, and only bumped a few logs (all unavoidable, of course!). Down the rapids we go, scraping a few rocks – all of course, unavoidable, at least in my mind. Soon the spires of Richmond come into view, and as we negotiate the final rapid, I turn around to face the crew, and set the stroke rhythm for the final push to the finish line. We had practiced this on quieter, straighter sections of the river. In my biggest voice, I start to count off the first four powerful strokes, but I only got to “ONE…”, when, “Ker-crunch!  Well, ‘whadyaknow’, there’s one more rock in this river, and we found it. Luckily, I didn’t fall out of the canoe, and we picked up the pace to the finish line, finishing in fine style (at least in my mind), but most importantly, with the crew all still smiling, happy, reasonably dry, and reasonably warm.

And best of all, we won our class! (Well, we were the only canoe in our class)

I’m considering this event as a warm-up (ironic as it is to have a warm-up paddling event at -6C) to the Big Canoe races at Rideau Paddlefest on Aug. 6. I’m ready now. Are you?

Max Finkelstein

Voyageur-in-training and chief gouvernail for Rideau Paddlefest.


The 12.6 kilometer long race starts on the Jock River at the Munster Road south of Franktown Road. From the start line, there is a shallow rapid a few minutes downstream, followed by a chute of fast water. The river then flows through open fields and farmland for several kilometers before several sharp bends signal the beginning of the Richmond Fen wetland through which the river runs. When paddlers see a railway line on the south side of the river, it means the end of the Richmond Fen, with the river widening out considerably. This is followed by a long set of rapids followed by another set of rapids before the finish line at the Jock River Park in Richmond comes into sight.

Want to join the Rideau Roundtable…Submit your name and e-mail stuff and leave the rest to us.


Posted in Community Involvement, Cultural interest, Culture, Exercise, Heritage, Historical interest, Paddling, Sustainability | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment