Elk Island National Park is one of our little family’s weekend mainstays. It’s the only completely fenced national park in Canada, and is home to both the largest and smallest land mammals in the world: the wood bison and pygmy shrew, respectively. We visit often, especially for the beautiful hiking trails, and while we’re proud of our part in accidentally inventing the sport of “extreme off-road stroller hiking” this past summer when we had to drag our sturdy City Select through a bog, we haven’t been able to get out for as many adventurous dates as we used to. When I came across Evening Paddle Tours, I knew we needed to call up Nana to babysit and make it a date.
Haskin Canoe operates on Astotin Lake at the North end of the park, and offers solo and tandem kayaks and canoes, or a spot in the large voyageur canoe on their Sunset Tours. While we’d done a short introduction to ocean kayaking while in Victoria, we had never canoed together, so booking space in the voyageur canoe, where a guide would be sitting just a few rows back and we could not possibly get lost, was the obvious choice.
It was slightly overcast and smoky on the night of our tour, but that didn’t lessen our experience. We were given a brief lesson on proper paddling technique by our guide, who was kind and knowledgeable, pointing out the various islands and sharing interesting facts as we began our adventure. LED beacons blinked on each canoe and kayak, twinkling in the twilight so as to remain visible as dusk approached.
A pelican, spectacular due to its size and flat, yellow bill, swooped directly over our heads before landing nearby to fish. The haunting call of a loon could be heard in the distance. We spotted a beaver, swimming busily near one of the lake’s many islands. And, to my relief, the paddling was easily manageable, included plenty of breaks, and didn’t make my arms want to fall off.
There’s something uniquely peaceful about being out on the still, smooth water in the middle of nature as the day comes to a close, and sharing the experience with a group of people, all paddling rhythmically, made it even more special.
What you need to know:
Cost: $40 per person in the Voyageur Canoe
Location: Astotin Lake, Elk Island National Park
Time: 1.5-2 hours on the water
Date: offered throughout the summer and early fall
While tours are finished for the season, they’re a definite item to add to your 2019 bucket list.
Kirsten Clark is a high school English teacher, a reader, a runner, a lover of good food, and, most importantly, a new mom. Kirsten lives in Vermilion with her husband, and since welcoming a baby boy last December, is embracing the new adventure of motherhood with all of its ups and downs. She occasionally blogs at shelooksforadventure.com, and posts regularly on Instagram @kirstenlanae.