Paddle through History and see nature spring to life in the Minesing Wetlands

Explore the Minesing Wetlands – one of Southern Ontario’s largest wetlands – up close, in a canoe, this spring, with a guided tour on May 12th.

Spanning an area of more than 6,000 hectares, the Minesing Wetlands is recognized internationally significant wetland not just because of its size, but because it’s home to a diverse area of rare and endangered flora and fauna.

Minesing WetlandsMinesing Wetland beauty, by Angela Mills

By canoe, you can see various unique plants as they emerge with new life after winter. A diversity of wildlife and fish, including some at-risk and endangered species, live in its fens, marshes, swamps and bogs.

Friends of the Minesing Wetlands, established in 1997 to not only protect the wetlands but promote educational, recreational and eco-tourism, leads guided canoe trips each spring. Paddlers dip gently alongside a mosaic of twisty trees when the waters rise six to 10 feet in the spring in the 18-km guided expeditions.

“Spring is a great time to observe migrating waterfowl in the wetlands, including swans. Our experienced guides will provide nature interpretation along the way, including the rich cultural and natural history of the Minesing Wetlands and the surrounding area,” said Friends of Minesing Wetlands director Brittany Hope.

Paddling with the EaglesPaddling with the Eagles, by Brittany Hope

As well as being environmentally significant, the Minesing Wetlands have played a role historically and culturally. Archeological evidence shows people have lived in the area since about 2000 BC, due to its rich natural resources. There are several historic and Indigenous fishing and hunting camps and villages, with finds such as pottery, stone axes, pipes and flint.  Along the eastern edge of the wetlands, there is an Iroquoian Middleport settlement that has been dated to 1300 AD.

The Wendat people farmed in the area and used the Minesing Wetlands for hunting and fishing. They traded beaver pelts with the French, who brought diseases such as smallpox, which decimated the population.  Ultimately, the Wendat people were defeated by the Iroquois.

During the War of 1812, the wetlands were part of an alternate route to move troops and supplies to the Upper Great Lakes. Known as the Nine Mile Portage, this route is often enjoyed by hikers today. It links Barrie’s Kempenfelt Bay shore to a lookout on the wetlands and descends to the lower wetland and intersects with Willow Creek.

Nottawasaga RiverNottawasaga River, by Naomi Saunders

During the five-hour, 18-km guided trip, paddlers can see traces left by people who came before us, people that also included lumber barons, railway builders and finally farmers.

A paddle through our natural and social history can be challenging in the vast wetlands, warned Hope.

“The paddle is not for the feint of heart,” she said. “Paddlers can easily get disoriented when the wetland turns into a lake with the rising waters. Some areas can be tricky to manoeuvre due to narrow channels, sandflats and fallen trees. We highly recommend that those wishing to venture into the wetlands engage a guide to ensure safe travel.”

Basic to moderate paddling skills and experience are strongly recommended for the guided trip. Participants must be at least 14 years old. Participants must also bring their own canoe, life jackets and safety equipment.

The guide will choose the exact route based on water levels and wind speed and direction. Pre-registration is required; details will be emailed to registrants a few days before the excursion.

Cost is $25 per person. A maximum of 12 guest boats – kayaks and/or canoes -- is enforced. For more information, visit

Minesing Wetland in SpringMinesing Wetland in Spring, by Naomi Saunders

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