Six paddlers are entering the home stretch of what may be the ultimate Canadian canoe trip — a 165-day, 7,000-kilometre trek from Vancouver to Saint John, New Brunswick.
The Cross Canada Canoe Odyssey began on April 17 with an upstream paddle up the Fraser River and has thus far made it all the way to Ottawa.
By the time University of Saskatchewan hydrology student Ross Phillips and five companions finish their expedition in Saint John, they will have paddled through 18 rivers and 11 lakes across seven provinces.
The trip began on the Fraser and move through to Lake Okanagan and the Columbia River system before the portage up the Rockies through Howe's Pass, a historic trade route through the mountains.
After that, they took the Saskatchewan River down through Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba before travelling through a series of lakes and rivers in Manitoba.
The Ontario trek crossed the north shore of Lake Superior and Lake Huron to the French river to Lake Nippising and after a portage through North Bay, to the Madawa River to the Ottawa River.
It moves on from the Ottawa River to the St. Lawrence and then the Riviere Verte before finishing with the Saint John River and into the Bay of Fundy.
See a map of the route.
They will also have portaged 300 kilometres, including a 50-kilometre trek in snowshoes up the Rockie Mountains with their canoes on their backs.
"We're definitely on the downward slope now," said Phillips of moving down the Ottawa River. "This is just lovely paddling, just gorgeous scenery, quick water and otherwise just flat."
The trek was awarded a $25,000 Expedition of the Year grant from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and is also receving funding from the RBC Blue Water Project.
Phillips said they are hoping to use the trip to raise awareness of the importance of Canada’s freshwater resources and draw attention to the work done by both the Canadian Heritage River System and the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
It's also a labour of love, he said.
"At the base of it all, we love to paddle," said Phillips. "But we also want to draw attention to freshwater resources and how important they are to Canada, to Canadian heritage, environment, recreation and well-being."
"In doing this to encourage people to appreciate that and draw attention to excellent organizations that we feel are doing excellent work towards those ends."