This canoe route destinations article was first published in Canoeroots and Family Camping magazine.
If only the power- and money-hungry moguls of industry could see beyond the potential energy of falling water and experience the kinetic pull of a free-flowing waterway. River tripping canoeists know this soulful feeling, but with provincial governments from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador riding a bandwagon of “green” energy, wild rivers have become hot commodities. Despite the efforts of grassroots advocacy organizations and international environmental networks the number of endangered Canadian rivers is growing. Here’s a cross-country list of last-chance river trips.
Peace River, British Columbia
TIMELINE: 5–10 YEARS
Admittedly, portions of the historic Peace River in northern British Columbia have al- ready been spoiled by waterpower developments. In 1968, the W.A.C. Bennett Dam created a 250-kilometre-long reservoir that flooded out parts of Alexander Mackenzie’s route to the Pacific Ocean. Still, the middle and lower Peace remain much the same as when Mackenzie paddled the river in the 1790s. BC Hydro’s proposed Site C dam could change that by turning most of the 120 kilometres between Hudson’s Hope and Fort St. John into a wasteland. With BC Hydro just starting consultation, there are still a few years to enjoy the easy, four-day float. More importantly, there’s still time to convince government otherwise.
Namakan River, Ontario
The Namakan River forms a 40-kilometre- long, pool-and-drop link on the fur trade route from the canoe-country lakes west of Lake Superior to the Canadian interior. But because the Namakan isn’t contained within the protected boundaries of neighbouring Quetico Provincial Park, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Voyageurs National Park, it is open to development. The Ojibway Power and Energy Group is poised to begin construction of a 6.4-megawatt dam at High Falls as early as this summer, and two other sites in years to come. The chance to experience the still-wild Namakan is worth the effort of lake-hopping from Quetico’s Pickerel Lake access.
Romaine River, Quebec
The most recent river to be attacked by the Hydro Quebec juggernaut is the Romaine, which flows from the Labrador border to the St. Lawrence River. Although preliminary work began last summer, Alliance Romaine spokesperson Fran Bristow says there’s still time to enjoy one of La Belle Province’s best whitewater trips before construction of four massive dams ramps up in 2012. What’s more, Bristow is convinced there’s still a window to convince the Quebec government that the Romaine is worth protecting. The 575-kilometre, three-week trip starts with a train ride from Sept-Îles to Oreway. The Romaine’s challenging whitewater and spectacular canyons are reason enough to sup- port Bristow’s campaign.
Albany River, Ontario
TIMELINE: 10–20 YEARS
Ontario Power Generation has highlighted the powerful rapids of the remote Albany River (currently protected as a waterway park) as a future site of a large-scale hydro- electric complex in the province’s far north.
Fond du lac River, Saskatchewan
TIMELINE: 10–20 YEARS
The need for energy to fuel the surging oil and gas industry in northern Saskatchewan threatens rivers like the Fond du Lac, a favourite among experienced canoe trippers for its whitewater and unique limestone gorges.
This article originally appeared in Canoeroots & Family Camping, Early Summer 2010. Download our freeiPad/iPhone/iPod Touch App or Android App or read it here.