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Take A Canoe Tripping Course? But I Have Lots of Experience.

 September 2, 2015
Posted by NWT Recreation and Parks Association


Part of my job as the On the Land Programs Consultant is to provide training support to communities offering land-based activities. I’m still very new to this work, but in the three months I’ve been at the NWTRPA, more than one person has asked about the value of formal outdoor certification courses for people with extensive on the land experience. While the institutional benefits are clear—particular certifications are often required by insurance companies to retain a community or organization’s coverage for on the land activities—the benefit to experienced individuals are perhaps less obvious.

While at a Paddle Canada Canoe Tripping Instructor course last week, I made a point of asking the other participants, many of whom had a good amount of outdoor experience, why they had registered. First though, a little bit about the course. It was organized by Gen Côté of the Fort Smith Paddling Club, led by Priscilla Haskin of Haskin Canoe, and co-sponsored by the NWTRPA. The participants included an instructor and student in the Environment and NaturalResources Technology Program (ENRTP) at Aurora College’s Thebacha Campus, two staffers from Wood Buffalo National Park, an officer from the Fort Smith Correctional Facility, the incoming principal of Kakisa Lake School, and me.

Our group of nine spent four days travelling on the Slave, Bocquene, and Dog Rivers in Treaty 8 Territory on the traditional land of the Dedharesche (Salt River First Nation), IMG_2347[1]Thebatthie (Smith’s Landing First Nation), and Métis. In addition to a few short pre-trip assignments (the creation of a float plan, meal plan, and risk management overview), each participant was responsible for leading part of the trip. Each participant also delivered four short lessons on a variety of topics related to pre-tripping planning, camping and canoeing skills, and safety and rescue.

IMG_2426[1]There was a common theme in the participants’ responses to my questions about what motivated them to take the course and what they had gotten out of the experience. The course, they shared, was less about learning how to lead a canoe trip, most had already done this, than it was about providing an opportunity to see how other people approached travelling on the land. Participants enjoyed encountering different kinds of gear and learning about new approaches to planning and guiding. They also appreciated the opportunity to share their experiences through peer teaching and group discussion.

A canoe tripping course then, even for a seasoned paddler and camper, can be a great learning experience. It can also lots of be fun. As we arrived to the boat launch at Fort Fitzgerald on the last day of the course, more than one person lamented that the trip was over so soon.

To see more photos from the trip, check out this Facebook album.

Blog post written by Jessica Dunkin, On the Land Programs Consultant for the NWTRPA