Paddle The Don 2012

By Nicole Czorny

On Sunday May 6, 2012, we joined over 600 paddlers on the fast moving and at times, choppy waters of Canada’s most urbanized river for the ultimate urban adventure down the Don River.

With the help, and muscles, of our TRCA paddler, we portaged and paddled our way from the picturesque natural shoreline of Ernest Thompson Seton Park in Don Mills, where few sights and sounds of the city can be seen, to the very un-natural Keating Channel, under the Gardiner Expressway.

Organized by the TRCA, Paddle the Don has been raising funds and awareness for the health of the Don River since 2002, and has been sending paddlers down the river for the past 20-years. Normally the Don is too shallow to paddle down, so water is released from G. Ross Lord Dam at Finch and Dufferin.

For Celeste Longhurst, a member of the Don Watershed Regeneration Council, paddling the Don was a transformative experience.

“You get to see the biodiversity and life of the Don River that is normally hidden in plain sight,” she says. “You also see the transition of a relatively clean, naturalized and meandering river, into a completely artificial, man-made, unnatural, and not very clean channel.”

Keating Channel, where the mouth of the Don River opens up to Lake Ontario.

Completed in 1914, the Don Improvement project straightened the Don River from Winchester Street to Lake Ontario, into what is now known as the Keating Channel. Once thriving with fish, water fowl and wetlands, events like Paddle the Don are helping to bring awareness to the Don Mouth Naturalization project, which seeks to re-naturalize the mouth of the Don River.

River Don Straightening Plan, showing lands to be expropriated, 1888
River Don Straightening Plan, 1888.

To learn more about the revitalization of the Don River, check out the TRCA’s website. And don’t forget to mark your calendars for next year’s Paddle the Don on Sunday, May 5, 2013 -canoes fill up fast!

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