Discover The Best Places To Go Canoeing In Toronto

Locals love to share their knowledge of paddling in the Greater Toronto Area.

There’s no better way to discover the hidden gems in a city than by asking a local. I think that’s even more true when it comes to urban paddling.

Although I have lived in Toronto for over nine years, I am always finding out about new places to paddle and meeting new people who love urban canoeing as much as I do. Sharing my favourite paddling locations with others is part of the fun. Here are some of the best places to go canoeing in Toronto.

best paddling trips in and near Toronto

THE HUMBER rIVER

Fall colours make for a spendid paddle on the Humber River.

The Humber River is local waterway frequented by urban canoeists. It offers some of the best canoeing near Toronto. The river remains ice-free for much of the year, allowing paddlers a chance to explore by canoe when most of the northern rivers and lakes are still frozen solid. It’s also a five-minute drive from my house, making it a personal favourite for an afternoon jaunt.

In the spring and summer, it’s teeming with wildlife. I’ve played peekaboo with a mink on the river rocks below the bridge, spied an owl waiting patiently for dusk in the top of a tree, and watched turtles flip off their sunning logs and into the water as I glided past. In autumn, the changing leaves make for a very pretty experience.

The Humber can be accessed directly from Lake Ontario by the Humber Arch Bridge if the wind off the lake isn’t too severe, or from a parking lot off Riverside Drive north of the Queensway behind the Petro-Canada gas station. Paddling upstream from here is easy, as the current is not strong and the river is sheltered from the wind by massive willow trees and reedy marshes. You can paddle about as far north as Old Mill Station on the Bloor-Danforth subway line before the river gets too shallow. 

Cherry Beach to Centre Island on Lake Ontario

Enjoying a break in the shade on the Humber Marsh.

While enjoying a break under a shady willow tree in the middle of the Humber Marsh, my canoe partner, Andrew, and I met another tandem canoe couple who were happy to tell us about their favourite paddling spots.

Garney and John Chu, 54 and 59, live in Mississauga and had spent the whole weekend paddling local rivers and canoeing near Toronto.

The Chus enjoy canoe excursions that range from two to eight hours in length, and have paddled their local waterways extensively. “One we really like is from Cherry Beach to Centre Island,” Garney Chu said. “It’s a good one. We put in at Cherry Beach and cross the channel over to the island. It’s just beautiful,” she said.

To paddle from Cherry Beach to Centre Island, you have to cross the 300-metre Eastern Channel – the main commercial shipping route in and out of the Toronto Harbour. The water can be choppy here even on calm days, and there can be lots of boat traffic, so make sure you are experienced enough for the trip and have checked the local weather forcast before heading out. Most people park their cars and launch from Cherry Beach.

Centre Island is a part of the Toronto Islands, so once you arrive, there are plently of places to explore around the islands by canoe, including beaches and beautiful shoreline parks.  Pack a lunch and your swimsuit, and enjoy some island time.

Sixteen Mile Creek

 “We were on the Credit River yesterday,” Garney Chu said. “We are older, we’re seniors, so I don’t know about camping,” she laughed. “We like to just do the day trips. We try to get out here often.” John Chu added, “We also like Sixteen Mile Creek. It’s a very short distance, probably best to do it in the fall.”

Sixteen Mile Creek is located in Oakville and makes it's way right into the heart of the city. There are many different sections of the creek that can be paddled.

One recommended paddling route starts at the public canoe/kayak ramp directly under the Rebecca/Randall Street Bridge. Starting at the bridge you can paddle downstream past the harbour to the entrance of Lake Ontario. Then you can make your way back up the creek, past the bridge, up to the shallows at Speers Road, and back down to where you started.  The route is approximately 6 kilometers long. A surprising amount of wildlife activity can be witnessed along this short route.

The Credit River

Foreground: The author, Tierney Angus Background: Lachlan McVie and Erik Thomsen

Last spring, Andrew and I connected with another tandem canoe team through a Facebook group for Credit River Paddlers.

The Credit River is a great place to paddle in all seasons. But when the water in the rivers run high during the spring melt, the Credit River just west of Toronto is a fantastic whitewater paddle. Class I and Class II rapids flow almost continuously from the put-in at Streetsville in Mississauga down to the take-out in Erindale Park. It’s a fast, exciting run and a great place to meet up with other local paddlers.

Lachlan McVie, 31, and Erik Thomsen, 30, have been canoe partners for six years. They both grew up in Mississauga playing on the banks of the Credit. They shared with us their thoughts about urban paddling.

 “For city dwellers like us, our urban rivers provide a quick and accessible escape back to nature,” Thomsen said. “While it is true that many of our urban rivers, such as the Credit, have been almost irreversibly altered by man, they are still important places of refuge for plants and animals. To see herds of deer cross the path of your boat, or beavers fortifying their lodges before winter, or to hear threatened songbirds sing from the riverbank as you paddle by; to experience these things in the middle of the most populous region in the country is something quite special.”

Through the condo buildings, adventure awaits.

TORONTO CANOE RENTALS AND GUIDED TOUR OPERATORS

CANOE GROUPS AND CLUBS

About Tierney Angus

Tierney is a journalism student, blogger, avid canoeist, beer snob, bacon lover and Temagami backcountry expert. She spends most of her free time paddling all over Ontario in a yellow canoe named The Happy Adventure.

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