9 Videos That Will Make You Want to Paddle in Ontario

These unforgettable films will inspire you to plan your own Ontario canoe or kayak adventure.

With such diverse and outstanding paddling opportunities, it’s no surprise Ontario’s canoeing and kayaking filmography offers a stirring collection of cinematic experiences—from timeless classics like Bill Mason’s beloved Waterwalker and Paddle to the Sea, to recent film festival award-winners like Goh Iromoto’s The Canoe. Add to this an entertaining and eclectic assortment of DIY videos, and you just might be planning your own paddling trip before the credits roll!

The Canoe

Through the stories of five diverse paddlers across Ontario, this award-winning, 26-minute documentary underscores the strength of the human spirit and how the canoe can be a vessel for creating deep and meaningful connections. The fascinating stories and stunning imagery are accompanied by the stirring narration of former Canadian Canoe Museum executive director, James Raffan. Filmmaker Goh Iromoto is a lifelong paddler and talented storyteller and cinematographer based in Toronto, Ontario. He writes:

“Thanks to the canoe, I’ve made some lifelong friends and connections, not to mention memories and stories, that I’ll never forget. I came to realize that the canoe was more than just a simple vessel, and I wanted to show how other paddlers created intimate connections alongside the canoe. Whether they were young or old, or from various cultural backgrounds, individuals were taking this traditional Canadian craft and seeking new meaning with it. Seeing and hearing these stories made me appreciate how important the canoe is to my life. To all the paddlers out there (and to those who want to start), this film is for you.”

The Canoe won the Best Canoeing Film award at the Paddling Film Festival in 2017.

Waterwalker

Believed by many to be Canadian canoe icon Bill Mason’s greatest film, this feature-length (86-minute) documentary follows the legendary naturalist on his journey by canoe into the Ontario wilderness. Released in 1984, Mason’s deeply philosophic musings and Bruce Cockburn’s haunting musical score make Waterwalker a truly timeless film. Inspiring, moving, peaceful and at times harrowing, this is a work of art that will stay with you long after you’ve finished watching. 

National Film Board of Canada curator Albert Ohayon writes: “In Waterwalker, Mason was aiming for a visual poem on his love of nature and canoeing. The film can best be described as an ode to the majesty of nature (Lake Superior in particular) and an affirmation of Mason’s strong religious beliefs. Mason canoes throughout Lake Superior and stops occasionally to paint a spectacular waterfall or other scene, all the while talking about spirituality in nature and humans.”

Nine Rivers

With raw honesty and humour, Nine Rivers takes viewers on a month-long, thousand-kilometre canoe journey across Northern Ontario to Hudson Bay. Award-winning filmmaker David Hartman shares the splendor and hardships of travel in this rugged landscape as the four paddlers follow nine remote rivers in their effort to reach the bay. The magic of Nine Rivers lies in how Hartman distills the grand beauty, isolation, difficulty and drama of a 30-day, northern canoe trip into this 27-minute film.

Wild Temagami

Anyone who has ever explored—or hopes to explore—Ontario’s beautiful Temagami region will enjoy watching this 14-minute environmental documentary from Wild Canoes' outdoor blogger and budding filmmaker, Hailey Sonntag. Combining the lovely landscapes of this famous canoeing destination with archival images and interviews with long-time Temagami stewards, Hap and Andrea Wilson, Wild Temagami highlights the Wilsons’ relationship with this wilderness and the threats the land faces. Through her lens, Sonntag empowers viewers and paddlers to play an active role in protecting the places we love. Much of Wild Temagami was filmed at the Wilsons’ Cabin Falls Eco-Lodge in Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park.

We Belong to It

Follow Ray Mears—a renowned British TV personality and master of traditional bushcraft—as he journeys into the heart of remote Wabakimi Provincial Park in Northern Ontario. We Belong to It is a beautifully shot 14-minute film from Goh Iromoto that explores the visual beauty of the Boreal forest landscape, as well as delving into Mears’ reflections on nature, bushcraft, and canoe tripping. In the video’s closing minute, Mears quotes Canadian conservationist Grey Owl: “We must remember… that in the end… nature does not belong to us, we belong to it.”

We Belong to It won awards for Best Canoeing Film (2015) at both the Paddling Film Festival World Tour and Waterwalker Film Festival.

Ottawa Valley Whitewater

Ever wondered what it’s like to stand up paddleboard the thundering rapids of Ontario’s mighty Ottawa River? Perhaps not, but this 22-minute episode of Facing Waves from Heliconia Press will have you stoked to find out! SUP ninjas Luke Hopkins and Nikki Gregg put their skills to the test on the river’s famous rapids. The video also highlights the Ottawa Valley’s world-renowned whitewater freestyle kayaking opportunities.

Zìyóu (Freedom)

Weaving the breathtaking waterscapes of Georgian Bay with a moving narration from avid sea kayaker Emily Chan, this seven-minute short film explores what it means to live life to its fullest. Director Goh Iromoto states:

“On the surface, Zìyóu is a story about an individual overcoming the challenges of her own culture and family traditions, but in actuality it is something much more. It’s a universal story about the will of an individual to carve a path that is genuine to the innermost values by which one lives. To me, Emily’s story represents the true meaning of ‘freedom.’”

Read more about kayak touring in the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve here.

Facing Waves: Kayaking Lake Superior

Facing Waves host Ken Whiting showcases the outstanding sea kayaking potential of Lake Superior’s Michipicoten Bay in this four-minute segment. Hosted by Naturally Superior Adventures, Whiting discovers Caribbean-blue waters, endless beaches, polished rock islands and exciting waterfalls—all within a day’s paddle of the outfitter’s base near Wawa, Ontario.

The Path of Grey Owl

In this multiple award-winning documentary, prolific filmmaker Goh Iromoto takes viewers on a journey through time and place in Ontario’s Temagami canoe country. At just 10 minutes, The Path of Grey Owl delves into the landscape that shaped acclaimed, early 20th-century author and conservationist Grey Owl (aka Archibald Belaney), and why his message about protecting our wilderness is still so relevant and important today.

About Virginia Marshall

Virginia Marshall is a freelance outdoor adventure writer, photographer and editor with roots in Muskoka and Lake Superior. Read her work in Adventure Kayak, Canoeroots, Rapid, Paddling Magazine and Backroad Mapbooks.

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