Tackling the Turtle

You bet they do. Family fun in the rapids.

My two teenage daughters are pretty fearless when it comes to moving water. Islay and Lillian’s eyes light up at the site of any visible drop in the river ahead.

We’re on our annual family canoe trip—this year on Northwestern Ontario’s Turtle River, part of the Turtle River – White Otter Lake Provincial Park. So far the rapids have been exciting. Steep drops, fast current, large standing waves and virtually no mid-river hazards translate to thrilling runs that are not that difficult. So when we land our canoes and scout a particularly sharp drop squeezed between a sloping, rocky shoreline, my girls are keen to run it.

“Okay, but take everything out of that canoe before you go down,” I say. Our group of four adults and five children are divided into four canoes, and Islay and Lillian are paddling the smallest boat. While they portage the packs down the trail I set up a waterproof video camera on the gunwale of the canoe because I’m pretty sure they are in for an interesting ride.  Check out the video below. 

The rest in our crew scramble along the rocky shore of the short rapids and settle in to watch the show. Clad in bathing suits and PFDs, Islay and Lillian paddle into the teeth of the rapids. Amidst shrieks of excitement and barking commands, the tiny canoe undulates through the troughs and peaks of large standing waves, appearing to sit lower and lower in the water by rapid’s end.

To their credit, the girls stay upright throughout the white water. The triumphant run ends with a totally swamped canoe slowly capsizing in the still pool below the rapids. It was not totally unexpected or unwelcome.  

Smallmouth bass caught on Turtle River

And with the warm sunny day the white-water-swim joins great fishing and easy camping on the sloping granite as memorable parts of our Turtle River paddling adventure.

Campfire cooking in Northwest-Ontario


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About James Smedley

Professional photographer and writer James Smedley’s contributions—more than 400 pieces and close to 1,000 images—to U.S. and Canadian books, magazines, and newspapers have earned him over 40 national and international awards. In addition to teaching photography workshops, James is the travel editor at Ontario OUT of DOORS magazine. James has fly-fished for brook trout and arctic grayling in far northern rivers and continues to cast for trout, bass, and steelhead near his home in the northern Ontario town of Wawa where he lives with his wife Francine and daughters Islay and Lillian.


Visit James at www.jamessmedleyoutdoors.com

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