Locals and tourists will now be able to take part in what’s being billed as ‘a new tourism product and cultural experience’ on the St. Marys River.
Canoes for Conservation, a Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy program, will allow groups to board a canoe, accompanied by tour guides, and voyage from Whitefish Island and the Sault Ste. Marie Canal, past riverfront attractions such as The Machine Shop and the Art Gallery of Algoma and dock at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre.
A canoe carrying a group including Donna Hilsinger, Ward 3 city councillor, and Shirley Horn, Algoma University chancellor, arrived at the Bushplane Museum’s dock after making the trip down the St. Marys River to mark the official launch of the new eco-tourism package Tuesday.
The project started on a trial basis last summer and fall, and canoe trips for 2019 began with a soft launch two weeks ago, said Peter Greve, Canoes for Conservation project coordinator.
“We’re excited to start running these tours,” Greve told an audience of economic development and tourism officials gathered at the Bushplane Museum Tuesday.
“On our website we have a booking platform for individuals to book or if you want to book with friends or family, your can book the canoe and tailor it to your needs for a two hour tour or a three hour tour,” Greve said, speaking to SooToday.
“Whitefish Island is a great spot for interpretation, it’s a very natural place. We give a talk about the rapids, then we cut across toward the Sault Ste. Marie waterfront near the Roberta Bondar Pavilion, we talk about the Bushplane Museum and some things on the American side as well. If you see a bald eagle fly across the sky we’re going to talk about bald eagles (emphasizing the natural part of the tour).”
“We’re hoping to continue the tour along the waterfront. We have a partnership with the Algoma Sailing Club, and we’re hoping to tie in with the Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig Anishinabek Discovery Centre once they get that built. That would be a great tie-in with the river and I’m sure they’re going to be doing a lot of experiential learning there for their students,” Greve said.
“We’ve put out a tentative schedule for the tours and as demand increases, we’ll be able to meet that demand.”
Currently, Canoes for Conservation has one 26 foot canoe in operation, a second 36 foot long canoe under construction.
The smaller canoe can hold eight guests, the larger 14 guests, with two guides on each canoe.
Funds raised through the canoe tours go to the Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy, plans calling for the trips to continue through to the fall.
The demand for the St. Marys River tour is there, said Greve, who also conducts guided canoe tours at Gros Cap and Batchawana with the Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy.
“What a great day for a paddle. That was beautiful. It reminds me of just what incredible beauty and history we have here in the community,” said Ward 3 City Councillor Donna Hilsinger, speaking on city council’s behalf.
The Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation (SSMEDC) and its Tourism Sault Ste. Marie division are supporting the eco-tourism project.