Canadian Canoe Museum

After waiting for a number of years I have finally visited the Canadian Canoe Museum. It is about an hours drive east of Toronto in the town of Peterborough. It did not disappoint, in fact it exceeded all expectations. If you are interested in any aspect of paddle sport this is must visit museum.

Walking through the door you are immediately confronted by a range of canoes and artifacts. There is almost too much to take in if you are interested in the history of canoeing and kayaking. The staff, the day we visited, were friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. They were eager to point out a number of the exhibits, which they thought we shouldn’t miss.

We started our visit with a look at the canoe, which had been donated by Gordon Lightfoot. I may have looked at him in a different light when I saw him in concert in Vancouver, if I had been aware of his remote canoeing trips.

Canadian Canoe Museum
Gordon Lightfoot’s canoe which he used on the South Nahanni River, whilst paddling with friends.

Although it is the Canadian Canoe Museum there were also a number of kayaks on display. Many of those were from Greenland but others had their origins in the Canadian Arctic.

Canadian Canoe Museum
A selection of Arctic kayaks. the lower three are from Greenland. The top one, which is upside down, is from Baffin Island.

The exhibits showed the importance of the canoeing in the exploration of Canada plus its economic development. Ranging from the traditional birch bark canoe to the large Montreal canoes linked with the fur trade. Some of the canoes are amazingly well preserved with comprehensive explanations of their significance.

I particularly enjoyed the section on the development of recreational paddling from the mid 19th century. Canoe Clubs were formed all over the country with regular meets and competitions. Exhibits on individuals, included some pretty famous people, such as the Royal Family and Pierre Trudeau. Famous paddlers depicted included Bill Mason, Eric Morse and Herb Pohl, to name a few.

The Canadian Canoe Museum is one of the most enjoyable museums that I have visited. There is so much to see and to reflect upon. Those canoes and kayaks, which are on display are just a part of the extensive collection. A new Canoe Museum is going to be built, by the water, next to the Peterborough Lift Lock, also worth a visit when in town. When the new museum opens, in a couple of years, another visit to Peterborough will be necessary.

Bill Mason
Probably no exhibition on the history of canoeing would be complete without a section dedicated to the life of Bill Mason.
Royal Canoes
Three canoes, which were given as presents to the Royal family, are preserved here. The middle one of the 3 was a wedding present to Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1947.
Canoe sofa
Just what every home should have. A canoe converted into a sofa. Perfect for inspirational thoughts and planning the next trip.