CBC Digital Archives

Coming of age in a canoe

The need to navigate the waters prompted native North Americans to invent the canoe. Hundreds of years later, their creation has become a favourite Canadian pastime. Many use canoeing as a means of finding tranquility in nature; others take it up as a sport. Some even view it as an art form. The CBC Digital Archives takes a look at the storied history of gliding along the water with paddle in hand.

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For the young people of Atikokan, Outers is a rite of passage. The annual canoe trip has been an exercise in building self-sufficiency for generations in the northern Ontario town of about 3,200 people, which has long been under threat of extinction due to the demise of industry. Amid the fight for jobs and a sustainable economy, locals lean on their strong connection to nature, and especially the canoe. "I think every community has their thing that holds them together and I really believe Outers is the cultural icon of Atikokan," says Outers program leader Peter Burton in this 2005 CBC-TV report from The National.
• Atikokan is known as the Canoeing Capital of Canada, according to ontariotowns.net. The community is located along Highway 11 (the Trans-Canada Highway), 209 kilometres (about 130 miles) west of Thunder Bay. It is the community nearest Quetico Provincial Park, which lies directly to the south.

• Atikokan was home to two mining companies - Steep Rock Iron Mines and Caland Ore Company - for over 30 years. The companies were created after prospector Julian Cross's 1938 discovery of ore beneath Steep Rock Lake, north of Atikokan. Both businesses planned for long-term development, but the growth of a new ore processing technology called taconite made the local ore less economical. Both mines were closed by 1980.

• The Atikokan Generating Station is the local energy-producing station. Owned by Ontario Power Generation, it began operation in 1985 and employs more than 90 people, according to the Ontario Power Generation website. Instead of closing down, it underwent a conversion process from coal to a biofuel blend consisting of peat and wood. The conversion was expected to be complete by 2012.  

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Oct. 21, 2005
Guest(s): Dennis Brown, Sally Burns, Peter Burton, Bud Dixon, Dwight Duncan, Lindsay Kerr
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Susan Ormiston
Duration: 12:00
This clip was edited for copyright reasons.

Last updated: May 16, 2013

Page consulted on September 15, 2014

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