Ice-Out Canoeing: A spring tradition for adventurous paddlers

It’s a rite of passage for many die-hard paddlers and it’s only a couple of weeks away….an ice out canoe trip.  So what’s the attraction?   It’s a moment of celebration, a time for paddlers to break free of the winter blahs, the sweet spot before the annoyance of spring bugs.  As long as you’re well prepared, an ice-out paddle can be the ultimate early spring adventure.

This year’s long, cold winter means that ice-out may be a bit late to arrive.  Records for Lake Opeongo in Algonquin show ice-out as early as March 29 in 2012 and as late as May 16 in 1972. 

So unless you’re right there waiting, how will you know if the ice is out?  The Friends of Algonquin post the latest ice conditions on their website.  Kawartha Highlands and Frontenac are also great parks to consider for the first paddle of the year – close to civilization but with a taste of the wilderness.  Check canoeing chat forums like My Canadian Canoe Routes to see if anyone is posting information on ice conditions.


Enjoy your first paddle of the season but remember that a fun trip can quickly turn to tragedy in cold waters.   Follow these safety tips when paddling after ice-out:

  • Wear a Personal Flotation Device always.
  • Plan as though you’ll end up in the water.
  • Know the dangers of ending up in cold water and the drowning risk from ingesting frigid water.
  • Wear a dry suit or dry top and pants.
  • Wear gloves with at least 5 mm of neoprene lining.
  • Never paddle alone. Go out with another boat.
  • Carry a throw bag so someone can pull you to shore.
  • Tell someone where you’re going.
  • Practice your rescue techniques in case you have to pull someone from the water.