• James Parry

Hudson wishes bon voyage to Ottawa-bound voyageurs in celebration of Canada Day


Seventeen paddlers set off in two canoes from Hudson’s Greenwood Centre for Living History this week on their way to Ottawa where they’ll meet up with 200 fellow paddlers from across the country on Saturday, July 1, to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial.

Like modern day voyageurs, 17 paddlers launched their two long canoes at Hudson's Jack Layton Park Monday, June 26, en route to Ottawa where they will be joining some 200 others from throughout the country to celebrate Canada Day this Saturday, July 1.

After camping out overnight at the nearby Greenwood Centre for Living History, they were up before sunrise to prepare for the journey that will see them paddle about 25 km daily – 40 on the last day – with overnight camping stays along the Ottawa River.

Dubbed the East Wind Brigade, all live in the Ottawa region but selected Hudson as their departure point and were thrilled that they did. Said chief organizer, Dot Bonnenfant, in an exclusive interview with Your Local Journal, “Greenwood and the people of Hudson have been so friendly and welcoming. It really is a beautiful little town, the marina here in the park is just perfect for our launch, and I know that we will be back to explore further later in the year.”

Comprising 13 women and four men, several of whom have never paddled together before, the brigade was full of vim and vigour as they boarded the 23 ½-foot canoes delivered that morning from Sorel, Quebec.

“It is so exciting to think that we will be travelling along a river that has been used as a water highway for 5000 years,” said Bonnenfant. “It's enough to give you goose bumps!”

In this regard, she added that the team was very appreciative of the talk given the night before at Greenwood by local historian Rod Hodgson who spoke about Hudson's relationship with the Ottawa River and its voyageurs as well as the First Nations.

Other brigades that they will be joining at Victoria Island (Asinabke) – at the foot of the Parliament Buildings and which is sacred Algonquin ground that has been a traditional meeting place for First Nations for over 5000 years – are from the West departing from Mattawa, North from Kitigan Zibi comprising Algonquin youth, and South from Kingston.

One of the things that Bonnenfant and her fellow paddlers were really looking forward to, she told YLJ, was going up the 19-metre-high lock at the Carillion Dam, their first-day destination. “It should be quite an experience. And it will also give us a break from paddling!” she laughed.

Asked if her team was representing any particular established charitable or worthwhile cause, Bonnenfant smiled. “No. But what we do represent, as do all the other brigades, are people who love rivers, Canada, and who only wish good for others.”

Bon voyage guys and gals and a Happy Canada Day together with your fellow paddlers!

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