Are you tired of playing the role of screen time police? Sick of seeing your family glued to their devices? Wishing you could find something that would leave everyone feeling charged up instead of searching for a charger? We’ve got three words of advice: CUT THE CORD!
Researchers have found that the main reason children like video games is that they offer a fun challenge, relieve stress and offer companionship with other players or friends. There’s some good news hidden here. These factors can be easily experienced on a family paddling trip that’s so fun your kids won’t even miss their screens. If you’re worried that the suggestion of a day out on the water is going to be met with objections by family members who aren’t pro-paddling, arm yourself with the following argument enders.
“We hate long car trips!”
Thanks to the Grand River, amazing paddling adventures that make you feel like you’re 1,000 miles away are much closer than you think. Paris and Brantford, which are both about an hour west of Toronto, are easy access points for this Canadian Heritage River than runs all the way to Lake Erie. From most of Southern Ontario’s larger cities, in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee and play a few rounds of I Spy, your family will have the road trip behind them and be on the banks of the Grand River.
“We don’t have a canoe or any paddling gear.”
Experienced Grand River outfitters, like Grand Experiences and Grand River Rafting,specialize in taking care of equipment for a day out on the water. Life jackets, boats, paddles and dry bags are all included in most of their packages. They’ll even shuttle your group to back to the car following your float.
“Our kids are too young or don’t know how to swim.”
The Grand River’s gentle currents make it a great choice for children as young as two years old. Life jackets are a must for any boating activity and families with young children can always opt for a float on large, inflatable rafts, which are virtually unflippable.
“Taking a whole family on a paddling trip sounds expensive.”
Compare the cost of a Grand River paddling trip to a family outing to an amusement park and you may be pleasantly surprised by the numbers. Grand River Rafting, for example, offers Turbo Tube rentals, which are like mini-kayaks with an inflated seat cushion. Their 11-km or 13-km trips, which take between three and five hours, are just $35 per person, and that includes the tube, paddle, life jacket, a group dry bag and a shuttle ride upstream at the end of your float.
“We don’t know anything about paddling.”
The Grand River is a perfect place to learn how to paddle because it is a very gentle river. If you’re still unsure, opt for a guided paddling experience and an expert teacher will accompany your family on the trip to show everyone the ropes and ensure the day is a success. Read on for a list of some of our favourite guided trips that are great choices for families.
Pick a sun-filled day and get your lazy on! Grand Experiences’ relax and float with their Lazy River Tubing package. From Paris, enjoy a wonder half day self-guided trip offering plenty of small swifts to keep your interest piqued as you drift downstream to Brant Park. View Great Blue Herons, Ospreys, turtles and on the shores, a white-tailed deer. Lining the banks is the rare Carolinian Forest where to occasional Bald Eagle may just soar above. Enjoy from early June through to mid-September.
Grand Experiences’ Learn to Paddle and Paddle Canada Basic Skills Certification Experience is a full-day experience packed with learning. The day begins on the calm waters of Pinehurst Lake, where participants master the basics of draw and pry strokes for maneuvering, and sweeps and the “J” stroke for steering. Next, it’s on to the Grand River’s Mohawk Run to learn how to read a river and determine what strokes to use in different conditions. By the end of the day, you will all be paddling like pros and earn your Paddle Canada Canoeing Basic Skills Certification.
For families that want to paddle and camp, the Guided Grand River Camping Experience is a great option. Setting out from Paris, your guide will help you learn to paddle, navigate the route and point out wildlife you encounter as you pass miles of stunning scenery. You’ll dock for the night at Brant Conservation Area and launch out the following morning on the Mohawk Run, which will take you past the historic Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks and Chiefswood Estate National Historic Site. At the end of day two a shuttle will take you back to your vehicle.
Grand Experiences’ Grand Voyageur trip is a four-hour guided paddle down the Grand River in a 12-person Voyageur canoe. A Paddle Canada certified guide, trained in the river’s history and wildlife, will point out unique natural features like cold springs and wildlife such as eagles, osprey, blue herons, beavers and white-tailed deer. Part of the way through the journey there is a guided hike along the Trail of the White Cedars that offers a chance to experience the rare Carolinian forest the area is so well known for.
After such an amazing break from their electronic devices, your family may not be in such a rush to return to their plugged-in ways. Extend the connection a little longer by booking an overnight stay at an area hotel.The Arlington Hotel in Paris, Days Inn Brantford, Holiday Inn Express Brantford and The Bear’s Inn in Ohsweken are all great options. All that fresh air is sure to work up some healthy appetites, so keep a list of tasty dining diversions at the ready. Some favourites in Paris include Edit at The Arlington Hotel, The Paris Wincey Mills Co., Cobblestone Public House and 2 Rivers Restaurant, Devlin’s Country Bistro in Mount Pleasant is another great choice. In Brantford, The Olde School Restaurant and enjoy dessert at The Exchange Café at the Bell Homestead National Historic Site 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.
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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, #discoverON and #ExploreCanada also regularly feature great paddling inspiration. Don’t forget to share some pictures of your paddling adventures too!