Paintings like Tom Thomson’s Jack Pine and A.Y. Jackson’s Red Maple are beautiful reminders that Canada’s natural landscapes have long been a source of inspiration for the artists that call this country home. While the lakes and rivers of northern Ontario get much of the glory when it comes to celebrated Canadian art, the Grand River has offered its fair share of inspiration as well. From Group of Seven member A.J. Casson’s Mill at Elora to Homer Watson’s The Flood Gate, to E. Pauline Johnson’s poem, The Song My Paddle Sings, this Canadian Heritage River has been showcased in a variety of mediums. Many people don’t realize that Lawren Harris, one of the founding members of the Group of Seven, was actually born in Brantford and spent his childhood playing near and skating on the Grand River.
Today, the Grand River, which flows south from Wareham, Ontario all the way to Lake Erie, continues to offer left brain fuel through a variety of experiences and attractions on and along its storied waters. Those that think outstanding outdoor adventures require a long slog fighting cottage country traffic are pleasantly surprised upon discovering The Grand. The river’s close proximity to southern Ontario’s biggest cities means endless inspiration is an effortless drive away. The charming towns of Paris and Brantford are two easy access points, and both are less than 110 km away from the Greater Toronto Area.
Here are a few amazing ways to celebrate art and nature with an outing on or along the Grand River.
Paint and Paddle
Grand Experiences’ Paint and Paddle package is a perfect way for artists to polish both their brush and their paddle strokes at the same time! Bring along your own art supplies and half-way along the canoe route the paddle will pause at a picturesque spot on land and the group will set up a studio and take a two-hour painting break. An experienced artist will be right by your side the whole day to offer as much, or as little, guidance as you’d like. A delicious picnic lunch is also provided.
Instead of heading to a gallery to look at paintings on a wall, set out on a moonlit paddle and cast your gaze up at Mother Nature’s masterpiece that shines from the night sky. Grand River Rafting offers a guided Moonlight Stargazer’s Drift by raft, canoe, kayak or stand-up paddle board nightly from the end of May through mid-October. For an extra special show, time your trip to coincide with one of their Full Moon Paddles. These guided paddling experiences float a relaxed 12-km route and the experience from start to finish takes about three hours. Paddles, lifejackets, dry bags, and a shuttle ride back to your vehicle are all included in the trip price. The sounds from the shoreline of beaver, deer, owls, herons, raccoons, coyotes and splashing fish are all complimentary!
Grand Experiences also offers a Moonlight Paddle on select Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from May through October in a 12-person Voyageur canoe or on a raft. Experienced paddlers can also opt to take their trip in a kayak or traditional canoe. Private trips for groups of four or more can also be scheduled for any evening within four days of a full moon.
The last thing you’ll feel like doing after such an amazing day or evening on the water is hitting the highway, so book a night at The Arlington Hotel in Paris, the Hampton Inn and Suites Brantford, Best Western Brantford Hotel and Conference Centre or The Bear’s Inn in Ohsweken. All that fresh air is sure to help you work up a healthy appetite, so keep a list of tasty dining diversions at the ready. Some favourites in Paris include Edit at The Arlington Hotel, Cobblestone Public House and 2 Rivers Restaurant. Devlin’s Country Bistro in Mount Pleasant is another great choice. In Brantford, Serenity Country Candles Café, The Olde School Restaurant and Devlin’s Advocate are all perfect places for peckish paddlers. Burger Barn in Ohsweken makes a burger so buzzed about that it’s been featured on the television show You Gotta Eat Here, and The Village Café is another popular spot in Ohsweken. Beer fans will love sipping the creative brews on tap at Brantford’s two craft breweries: Bell City Brewing Co. and Mash Paddle Brewing Company.
Cycle, Paddle and Explore The Natural Path
When an outfitter and an organic farm put their heads together to create a new outdoor experience, you know it’s going to be good! The Natural Path is a two-day guided trip that offers cycling along the Trans Canada Trail, paddling in a 12-person Voyageur Canoe, an educational farm experience, a guided plant walk, great meals and so much more. If the fields, farms and forests along the route don’t offer quite enough inspiration, tours at an artisanal pottery studio, Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks and Bell City Brewing Co. will throw some additional creative fuel on the fire! Guests can choose between a comfortable farm stay sleeping in tents under the stars or enjoy a few more creature comforts by overnighting at a nearby hotel. Delicious lunches will be served alongside the trail and there is also a tasty dinner at Stillwaters! Plate & Pour on the Grand River.
Added Art Inspiration
While exploring the Grand River area, don’t forget to save some time for a visit to the Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant. In addition to an intriguing sculpture collection set on a beautifully landscaped sixteen-acre park on the banks of the Grand River, the gallery is home to a permanent collection of over 600 works of art. The Woodland Cultural Centre’s Gallery has three exhibition spaces that rotate First Nations contemporary art and historical exhibitions on a three-month cycle.
Check out the fun that’s already happening on and around the Grand River by searching and following the hashtags: #PaddleTheGrand, #NatureUnexpected and #HamiltonHaltonBrant. #paddleON and #discoverON also regularly feature great paddling inspiration. Don’t forget to share some pictures of your paddling adventures too!