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Paddling in Metropolitan Toronto

Posted: Wed May 21, 2008 7:04 am
by PJohanson
I'm in the Toronto area for two weeks, doing a pair of readings for the Toronto Public Library's Heritage Reading Series. (Sorry, I haven't put a hot link here. But google Toronto Public Library and Heritage Reading Series and go check out their great website! A page for each reading, including location of the library branch it's in, and transit info for how to get there.)
I brought my Dragonfly kayak on the plane, which got me only a few comments from the other passengers when I put it in the overhead compartment. No, really, I checked it as baggage and it travelled fine, even with a two-part paddle sticking out of one end of the zipper.
Today I trundled it onto the bus with a small dolly and transferred twice on my way to the Credit River where it empties into Lake Ontario. Other paddlers on the quiet river today reminded me not to go out into the Great Lake, as a breeze on the river can pick up some big waves out on the open water. I think they had no idea what I've paddled in, but they meant the advice well, and as it happens I stayed on the river.
I caught the #8 S bus to the Don Rowing Club and the Mississauga Canoe & Kayak Club. Three ol' boys at the rowing club let me change clothes in the ladies' room, and I set up my inflatable behind the canoe club. Though I'd e-mailed ahead, there was no one there at 10:30 am on a Friday morning. I launched from their steep ramp and set out on the quiet flatwater. It felt a lot like any river estuary, but there was no salt in the spray or wind, of course!
The river is only about 200 metres across at its mouth, between a recreation centre and a dolled-up lighthouse. There's a yacht club outside the mouth, and the two small boating clubs just upriver from the bridge for Lakeshore Drive and downriver from the trestle for the GO train to Toronto.
I paddled under the low trestle, passing Canada geese, a swan, mallard ducks, swallows, red-wing blackbirds, some black-and-white woodpeckers and a kingfisher, as well as something that looked like a Caspian tern but was probably more common. Some large bird soared overhead but I couldn't tell if it was an eagle or something else.
The river at this point is a muddy, grey-green khaki colour, but there are no industrial buildings on either side, just a lot of *very expensive* houses. The variety of steps down to the water from the houses on the bluffs is really interesting... some are obviously homestyle constructions, most are rather well-made and look like they'd be good for backyard/beach parties. The trees on either side are almost all deciduous and had just dressed themselves in new leaves. Very fresh looking and smelling! The river didn't stink, but it certainly wasn't pristine wilderness.
I made easy headway upriver, as there was very little current (maybe 1/2 knot) and the breeze was blowing upstream. It only took about half an hour to pass under the bridge for the Queen Elizabeth Parkway.
At one point I found another inflatable kayaker, who proudly announced he'd just camped the night on the sandbar island he'd just left. There were a lot of low bushes and scrubby willow trees on the sandbar islands, so it was easy to see how he could hide a small tent or something. That's where I also saw a turtle basking on a log, neck and legs extended in the thin sunshine. It looked like a red-eared slider, grown big enough not to have a red patch any more.
At some points, there were no houses visible from the water; at others, very few and only partly visible through trees. All in all, a pleasant urban waterway, very park-like even when not actually parkland.
Above the QE there's a golf course, and there the current picked up as the river became more shallow. I worked my way upstream for a while, but eventually turned round and let the little current (about 2 knots) carry me back down to quieter waters.
There yet another inflatable kayaker praised the merits of a boat that he can store in his condo, and pointed out a muskrat swimming across the river.
I was on the water for over two hours in a slow, easy flatwater paddle, and wished I'd been able to go farther upstream. Another time, I'll try to borrow a kayak from someone at the club and go up by the golf courses.
Next week -- the Toronto Islands! And I get to fulfil my fantasy of portaging my boat on a Toronto subway.