June 18, 2019
Paddling the Leaf River
“You feel very small. It’s nature as it’s looked like for thousands of years - it’s primordial,” says Carol Steadman, who went on the canoeing trip of a lifetime with the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre last summer. “You know you’re at the mercy of what’s going on, yet with your skills and the people you’re with, you can get through.”
Steadman and her fellow paddlers – six clients and two guides - took a float plane from Kuujjuaq in northern Quebec to a drop-off point on the Leaf River, then paddled east towards the Ungava Bay for two weeks. On the approximately 100km, intermediate level trip, the paddlers navigated white water rapids and when they weren’t paddling, went exploring on foot.
“It’s just shockingly expansive. The sky goes on forever,” says Steadman, who is the University of Calgary Gymnastics Centre’s preschool coordinator. “You could hike forever and ever in this vast amazing topography. In the tundra there’s nothing and everything, all at the same time in this vast space of beautiful openness. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. It was just so beautiful.”
The Outdoor Centre guides are another reason that Steadman has been an enthusiastic return client for the past several years. “I trust them completely,” she says. “Ang (Angela Harder) and Steve (Wapple) are the greatest.”
Steadman also appreciated the inflatable canoes, which the Outdoor Centre purchased specifically for the Leaf River trip. The Outdoor Centre is now making these canoes available to the public as part of its equipment rental program.
“Those canoes were excellent. They are a good alternative to regular canoes,” Steadman says. “Their stability is something I appreciated a lot.”
With upturned ends, the nylon-coated canoes “are surprisingly manoeuvrable and super stable in the wind,” says Angela Harder, Outdoor Centre manager of Cross-Country Skiing, Wilderness First Aid and Paddling Programs.
Easily transportable, the SOAR Explorer model is well suited for people without a roof rack on their vehicle, she adds: the boats deflate, roll up, and are fast to inflate. You can also take them on a plane.
For people who haven’t done any kind of paddling, Harder recommends taking a course. The Outdoor Centre offers a variety of paddling courses for paddlers of all levels, including an ABC Complete Beginner Weekend and Canoeing with Kids, as well as introductory courses for Lake and River Canoeing. The Leaf River trip is just one example of the wide range of paddling trips offered by the Outdoor Centre.