]For 13 years, the Wallaceburg Canoe and Kayak Club has been showing local residents a part of the community many people wouldn’t believe until they saw it.
“We have some amazing waterways,” said Dawne Mudford, one of three people who operate the club. “When you canoe the Sydenham or Thames Rivers or some of our local creeks, there are places which you wouldn’t believe are in Chatham-Kent. There is virtually no sign of human habitation. You could be in a remote area instead of in the heart of Southwestern Ontario.”
During the club’s extistence; Mudford and fellow club leaders Mark Jacques and Dennis Carnegie have taught hundreds of young people from 9 to 21 how to enjoy the more than 200 kilometers of options along local waterways.
The club is operated under the umbrella of the 4-H Association of Chatham-Kent.
“We supply the canoes, paddles and training,” she said. “All they need is a properly fitted lifejacket.”
“Our first rule is that if you’re too cool to wear a life jacket you’re too cool to paddle with us,” she said. “We make safety our priority. One of the first things we teach is self-rescue and t-rescue where another canoe rights the capsized canoe.”
The 2015 season will begin with a safety meeting Thursday, May 21 at the K of C hall in Wallaceburg from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The registration fee is the cost of a 4H membership ($85) plus a $10 fee to help maintain the equipment. The 4H fee allows a member to join any other 4H activity as well.
“The club is volunteer driven,” she said. “No one is paid and the fee we charge is to maintain our equipment including the trailer we use.”
Adults who bring their own canoe and equipment are welcome to join the club which paddles each Thursday evening, weather permitting.
In addition to smaller waterways, the club plans outings on the St. Clair River and Mitchell’s Bay each summer. “The St. Clair trip is one of our most popular,” she said.
Mudford, who lives along the East Branch of the Sydenham River, said she got the idea for the club when she was a power boater. “I would see these small children out on the water in a little plastic boat with no life jackets and it would just worry me,” she said. “Someone needed to help them learn some boating safety so the club was formed.”
One of the best parts of canoeing is the ability to observer nature at a slower, more natural pace. “We’ve had deer swim across in front of us, and we always see turtles, birds and plants which you don’t see everywhere.”
Mudford said when you combine the educational aspects with the nature experience and comaraderies, it ads up to one thing – “the club is just a lot of fun,” she said.
For more information, you can reach the club through its Facebook site, Wallaceburg Canoe and Kayak Club.