South Wind Overview



About South Wind Brigade

The South Wind Brigade starts at the historic city of Kingston on Lake Ontario and proceeds north following the Rideau Canal World Heritage Site 202 km to the City of Ottawa. The final leg will leave the north end of the Ottawa Locks on the Ottawa River and follow the river upstream a short distance (less than one kilometre) to Victoria Island. The trip will be done at a leisurely pace, allowing time to stop at communities and lock stations along this scenic and historic route. The oldest functioning canal in North America, still hand-operated by its distinctive ‘crab’ winches, sheltered narrow lakes connected by short sections of canal and river, world-class scenery, vintage hotels and restaurants for those who prefer more ‘glamorous’ paddling….a perfect melding of wildness and culture.

Our vision – to fill the Rideau Canal in Ottawa will human-powered watercraft making their way through Canada’s Capital City…a Canada Day to remember.

Dates:  June 23 – July 1

Location: Kingston (Ontario) to Victoria Island (Anisabaka) on the Ottawa River via the Rideau Canal. Alternate starting point is Rideau Acres Campsite (see, approximately six kilometres from Kingston just north of Highway 401.

Why: To draw attention of Canadians to the historic role of the Voyageur canoe and Canada’s rivers in the founding of our nation. To celebrate the historical and ecological significance of rivers like the Ottawa, the Gatineau, and the Rideau, that connect our communities, our ecosystems, that connect our people through time and geography. To celebrate the canoe as an icon to the values of this country:  cultural cooperation, freedom, respect for the environment. We also want to draw attention to the rivers the brigades follow like the Ottawa, the Gatineau, the Rideau  in order to better protect and celebrate their importance to all of Canada, and to restore the Ottawa as the world’s cleanest, most ecologically healthy river to flow a national capital city.

Traditionally, voyageur canoes carried cargo of furs and trade goods. But these canoes will carry a different kind of payload – ideas, hopes and dreams.  Our mission is to draw attention to the need for everyone, , from citizen advocacy to the highest political echelons to the spirit of reconciliation – we want to see a Canada where all cultures can work and live together in peace and harmony and justice, and to also highlight reconciliation with the ecosystems that support us – our waters that for centuries were used as garbage dumps and open sewers and exploited for commercial gains without consideration for the ecosystems that supported the living communities, including people,  along these waterways. We’ve come a long  way, but we still have a long ways to go.

Big Canoes: This journey will be organized by canoe crews of 6-12 paddlers. Each crew will arrange for a replica of a “Voyageur” big canoe of 22 – 36 feet, which are normally paddled by 5-16 paddlers at a time. Most crews will have extra members, so that paddlers can be rotated, with those on a non-paddling shift or day looking after setting up camp, shuttling vehicles, preparing or acquiring food.  Whether or  not crews choose to have extra members, so that paddling can be in shifts, or whether crews choose to paddle the entire route, is up to the individual crew captains.

Smaller Paddle Craft:  For the 2017 Four Winds brigades, we invite smaller human-powered craft, (canoes, kayaks, SUOPS, sit-on-tops, outriggers, rowing boats, etc., to join in for portions of the brigade. For the South Wind route, it is easiest to join in with one of the community paddles being organized by towns along the route: from Perth to Smiths Falls; from Burritts Rapids to Kemptville, where welcoming celebrations are being held, and on July 1, the last day, from Dows Lake to the Ottawa Locks. My personal vision is to see the Rideau Canal in Ottawa filled with human-powered craft of all kinds.

Small craft paddlers should bear in mind that big canoes go fast and its difficult to keep up unless you are in a racing craft. Also, small craft paddlers will not be considered as part of the brigade. No need to register, but be aware that you will not be covered under brigade insurance. You are on your own, just out for a paddle, and happen to be paddling with these Big Canoes.   The South Wind Brigade organizers will work with local paddling groups for scheduling and information sharing, but administration and liability is the responsibility of local groups or individuals.

Brigade Organizer Responsibilities: Brigade organizers are responsible for setting the schedule and itinerary, registering Big Canoe crew and paddlers, assuring the Safety Plan is followed (see safety plan), booking camp sites, organizing events with local communities, liaising with government organizations such as Parks Canada, National Capital Commission, and municipalities. Brigade organizers will also assist individual paddlers to find crews to paddle with, acquire Big Canoes without crews, and assist small crews to find additional paddlers.

Brigade organisers will also be responsible for the ‘branding’ of the brigade (for example, hats, head bands, t-shirts, stickers, flags, etc, depending on available funds).

Brigade organizers will be responsible for media coverage, web site development and updating.

Canoe Crew Captain Responsibilities: Each individual crew captain will be responsible for registering and assembling their crews, arranging transportation to  and from the event and throughout the brigade, providing the canoe with safety gear to Coast Guard requirements, adhering to the Safety Plan, ensuring that each canoe has adequate paddles, life jackets, camp gear, group cooking supplies and gear, and food.

Captains and crews are responsible  for their individual costs – transportation, food, camping, accommodation. Note that most campsite will be at Parks Canada lock stations, and will be free.

Individual Crew Member Responsibilities: Individuals who wish to participate in the South Wind Brigade have the responsibility to find a crew to join or assist in forming a crew. The Brigade leader will assist individuals to find crews. Each individual is expected to share in camp chores, submit required paperwork to crew captains (waivers and membership in the Voyageur Brigade Society), pay their for share of the costs as directed by their captain, and help the brigade achieve its goals.

Fees and Registration:  Travel and food during the brigade will be organized by each paddling crew and costs will vary by crew choices. There will be opportunities to stay in hotels and eat at restaurants during the brigade. This is the choice of individual crew members. Crew captains will determine individual shared costs. By May, crew captains should have a good estimate of individual costs after registration is completed and deposits have been received, Final adjustments will be made after the brigade is completed, as there may be a few unanticipated costs! There will be an initial deposit of $400.00 per crew at registration.  This brigade is being budgeted on a equal cost-sharing basis, and as a revenue-neutral event (i.e. income = expenses). Some costs, such as group campsite bookings, may be made for the entire brigade. Paddlers should expect to equally share in costs of transportation to and from the brigade, transportation during the brigade, crew food costs, which will be calculated on a per crew basis by the crew captains.  There will be a brigade fee charged for each crew member, still to be calculated, and dependent on grants received (several still pending), This will cover group camping fees, insurance, ‘swag’, and group meals.

If there is any profit from the brigade, it will go towards supporting the Bill Mason Scholarship Fund.

Expect Registration to open in mid-November. A maximum of  twelve crews (about 100 paddlers) will be accepted for this brigade (based on campsite availability – we actually have 15! as of March 14, 2017)

 Other Considerations: 

-This is not a competitive event. Canoes are expected to travel together, following a lead canoe and forward of a sweep canoe, in groups of three-six canoes. For those paddlers who have a an irrepressible competitive spirit, you will have your chance on July 1st as we pass through an international flatwater sprint paddling competition at the Rideau Canoe Club.

-brigade leadership will be shared among crews. Captains meetings each morning will determine lead and sweep canoes, and the make-up of groups of canoes.

– some crews may have support vehicles and non-paddling or partial-paddling members. These folks would also need to register and, participate in all non-water activities.

-Paddle Canada Big Canoe Leader Certification: All crews are encouraged to have at  least one member certified as Paddle Canada Big Canoe Leader. If there is sufficient interest, we will provide a Big Canoe paddling course on the afternoon of July 23 at Rideau Acres. campsite.  big Canoe Leader Certification course are being arranged in the Ottawa area prior to the event. Check the blog.

-crews that travel with RVs will have extra to book individual campsites, at their own cost, and will NOT be able to camp with the brigade at lock stations.They will have to make theirown arrangements for camping (Rideau Acres Campsite (; ; Smiths Falls Municipal Campsite in Victoria Park (; Last Duel Park  in perth (Karen Fox at 613-267-3311, extension 2279., Merrickville ( For a complete list of campgrounds, see

The closest campgrounds to the city of Ottawa:

Poplar Grove, :

Ottawa Municipal Campground (

Rideau Heights Campground (the closest)..near Black Rapids Lock Station.

38 Rideau Heights Drive
Ottawa, On
K2E 7A6Sleepy Cedars Campground:

1893 Manotick Station Road
Greely, ON
K4P 1H2
Telephone: 613-821-0756
Telephone: 613-226-4141
Fax: 613-226-5643