Working Hard to Safeguard Paddling Assets for All Canadians

All about Whitewater

All about Whitewater
A Blog about River Preservation and the need to protect our free flowing whitewater resources

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Early photographs - how the MWWP was created

It was built from a rather bland riverbed by a small group of volunteers. They wished to provide a place that was reliable for training as well as recreational paddling. Their success has been beyond anyone’s expectations as the Gull has become the second most popular stretch of whitewater in Eastern Canada. It chalks up user day numbers beyond all but the Ottawa River. Whitewater Ontario was and is the foundation of that effort and continues to be regarded as the beneficiary and steward of this little gem of a river. We maintain the training center at no profit for paddlers and likeminded folks to develop whitewater related skills. We are proud of our accomplishments and take pleasure in sharing our resource.

Roger Parsons was the main man behind the Minden Wildwater
Preserve. It was his vision, and his hardwork that made the
whole project come into being.

Whitewater Ontario, then known as the Ontario Wildwater Affilation, used the Gull for races long before that.

It always was the top spot to compete for slalom. Roger saw the potential.

At this time, how he went about this, is a mystery that needs to be uncovered. He is still alive and well, living outside Barrie (by Horseshoe Valley). Go ahead, give him a call and show your appreciation!

Over the years individuals like the Kerkhoff family supported the MWWP financially through donations. Actual hands on work was more done by Mike Twitchin, Heinz Poenn and family, the Blight family, plus many more names we need to look up.

Dieter Poenn and Claudia Kerkhoff - both Canadian champs at the time, officially opened up the revised upper section of the Gull, by running the dam.

Roger Parsons - the heart and soul, inspiration and man of motion behind the MWWP - the foundation of whitewater paddling in Canada period is still going strong - - strong, active and still paddling (sea kayaks these days) his 80's he still has his MWWP scrapbook, site plan etc. at his place in Midhurst.
He likely will be a presenter at this years Gull River Festival, and we hope will - lead the evenings " Square Dance " - bringing back an old tradition, Roger is a caller (still active calling square dances in the Barrie area 3-4 times per week).

Roger passed on many archivial pieces of Ontario Paddling history to Dave Gillespie about 10 years ago, but still has a valuable scrap book which we plan to copy, mount and make a history exhibit for inside the building - ready for this years Gull Festival.

Roger had hoped that 25 years MWWP would be celebrated - that would have been 2004 but no-one around and active - knew about it.

Here is more on the preserve's history:

1969 - Canadian team members; Roger and Kathy (daughter) Parsons, Heinz Poenn, Keith Daniels, Hermann Kerckhoff ...and others were in desperate need of a whitewater training site, to prepare for the 1969 World Championships in Merano, Italy. They drove around Southern Ontario for 2 days (that year was a drought), when Roger suggested driving up to the Gull River. They arrived, it had water ! But, it was shallow in places, so felt some river work would make this an ideal slalom training site. Noticing a sign 'Land - for - Sale' on river left below the dam had them excited. 10 Cottage Lots were being sold all the way down the rapids shoreline by an American land-owner. Roger looked him up through the help of a local real-estate lady (whom he still bumps into in Minden), and asked if they could buy the top 3 lots to secure river access. Well the American then said - want you to take one or all 10. This meant raising $50,000.

Roger started writing letters to every paddler and organization to raise money. After 10 years of lobbying, getting pledge cards, collecting and in the end Roger raised $106,000 (mainly private $, and a small donation from the Cdn Nature Conservatory)

The municipality was not behind anything to do with paddlers. The reeve at that time was less than helpful but this all changed in 1979, when a new reeve was elected who was very keen, and spearheaded a lot of the support.

1979 - bought the land (10 Lots and a second piece behind for camping)

1980 - Opening of Site - big event with Reeve, other dignitaries and the whole paddling community. I remember this very well, as Dieter Poenn (Cdn mens champion) and Claudia Van wyk (Cdn womens champ) just returned from the World Championships, where they both placed 5th - best ever international placement by a Canadian, were asked to open up the 'river' by running the DAM. Well - it would be a first decent....and we were pretty scared, but keen at the same time. Man-made structures are unpredictable. Dieter ran it first (ha !) got a bit stuck in the hole, but Claudia managed to have a clean jump into river right eddy !

1983 - Building went up


The Gull has hosted two World Cup events, numerous Canadian Championships and many other events including Freestyle.

Running the dam at Minden was part of the course at a World Cup Slalom race hosted there by the Ontario Wild Water Affiliation decades ago. This was a significant international race and I am sure that the international racers (or the local ones for that matter) weren't directed to do something 'illegal' as part of this internationally sanctioned race.

It is technically illegal to run the dam at the Gull, or be within 50m upstream or downstream of it. Apparently - according to discussions I have had in the past with the OPP - this applies to all the dams on the Trent/Severn system. The law has been used to charge at least one paddler: Joe Langman was charged at Fenelon Falls. I don't know what happened in that case.

The OPP has used the law to chase boaters away from 2 paddling sites: Lock 19 in Peterborough and the dam between 12 mile lake and Mountain Lake (just north of the Gull, right next to hwy 35).

Hydro has nothing to do with the dam at the Gull. It is owned and maintained by the National Parks System as part of the Trent/Severn waterway.

Possibly a "special permit" was issued for world-cup races.

recognition for the hard work and dedication they showed to paddling, paddlers and the Gull, in addition to the folks already mentioned.
The McCall family particularly Jeff and Jim gave mightily of their time, knowledge, and enthusiasm.
They acted as volunteer coaches and mentors, organized training sessions at the Gull that they coached and used as work parties.
The Brownsea base boys from Peterborough were also key to the early Ontario and Gull river paddling and slalom scene.

My first trips to the Gull were in 1974. The lakefield paddlers would surf the standing waves on the river upstream of Peterborough and go to races on weekends to legitimize ourselves as an official school sport.
The Gull was the holy grail and this was before the falls were blasted and the river channelized. Racing from the falls down was high adventure back then.
In 1975 I saw Dieter Poenn run the falls and then surf what now would be called whitehorse, which seemed much more fun than running gates. His mom was always there judging gates and shaking her head when we would knock gates out of our way and Heinz try to give us coaching and instruction if we would take it.
Another family who gave greatly to paddling and the Gull.
My memories of Hermann appear to be different.
It was Roger Parsons though, who took hold of the vision and cracked the whip.
We wouldn't have the Gull in anywhere near its form if not for him.

Thanks Roger

River protection and access protections unfortunately also bring regulation with them. Regulation by beurocrats with little or no understanding or appreciation for us or what we do. See the situation on the upper chattoooga where boat ing is outlawed but fishing, hiking, camping are good to go.

The Problem with minden

The essential problem with Minden

It is a high value asset. The property is probably close a million dollars in value. WO owns 17 acres. In addition, shoreline land is leased from Orillia Light and Power for a nominal fee to allow for river access.

The dam is a water controlled structure owned and operated by Parks Canada as part of the Trent severn waterway.

It is obviously of great interest to paddlers. Above Horseshoe falls is technical class III-IV. Below class two-three. All dependent on water levels.

At the dam hydraulic holes develop at the sluice which can hold a boat but with new technology in boats often are side surfed by skilled paddlers.

The first drop below the dam contains an "augsberg" eddy. It has been said that a paddler who can navigate the upper section: dam to below horseshow falls, hitting every eddy, can probably navigate almost anything else. You be the judge.

The limestone rock at Minden is encrusted with mica and is razor sharp: swimmer unfriendly.

At one time it was felt that Voyageur island, midstream below the dam was in danger of eroding and causing deterioration of the navigability of the river.

No comments:

Canadian Rivers

Canadian Rivers
I speak for river users too!

The Queen is not amused!

The Queen is not amused!

The Damned Dam - 2005 -

The Damned Dam - 2005 -
22nd Annual Kipaw Rally has modest turnout. - 23rd does better

The Ashlu river: it could happen to you

The Ashlu river: it could happen to you

Whitewater Ontario

Whitewater Ontario
Working Hard to Protect Canada's Paddling Resources

Whitewater Ontario - Mission Statement

It is Whitewater Ontario’s mission to support the whitewater paddling community through the promotion, development and growth of the sport in its various disciplines. We accomplish this through the development of events, resources, clubs, and programs for personal and athletic development, regardless of skill level or focus, to ensure a high standard of safety and competency; We advocate safe and environmentally responsible access and use of Ontario’s rivers. Whitewater Ontario is the sport governing body in the province, and represents provincial interests within the national body Whitewater Canada and the Canadian Canoe Association

Kipawa, Tabaret, and Opemican

Kipawa, Tabaret, and Opemican
If Hydro Quebec is not actively pursuing Tabaret what is that bite out of Opemican for?

Kipawa Dam: After

Kipawa Dam: After
Laniel Dam at 2006 Rally

Where is the Kipawa

Where is the Kipawa
Kipawa flows into lake Temiskamingue, running from Kipawa Lake, under hwy 101 in Quebec

Kipawa Dam

Kipawa Dam
laniel dam at 2004 River Rally

Tabaret is a Bad Idea

About the Kipawa

The best thing paddlers can do to help the cause of the Kipawa:

1. attend the rally and bring others including non paddlers to attend and buy beer and have fun

2. write your MP /MNA and raise the issue and post your objections -1 letter = 200 who didn't write

3. Write Thierry Vandal the CEO of Hydro Quebec strongly opposing the 132 MW standard decrying the use of "diversion" as the most environmentally inappropriate method of power production

4. Write Jean Charest, Premier of Quebec protesting that either the algonquin or the tabaret project will eliminate all other values on the Kipawa River by turning it into a dry gulch.

5. See if you can get other allied groups interested by showing your own interest, ie the Sierra Defense Fund, Earthwild, MEC, and so on.

6. Demand further consultation

7. Currently we are at the point where we need to sway public opinion and raise awareness.

However, if all else fails, don't get mad, simply disrupt, foment, and protest . The Monkey Wrench Gang.

Have you read Edward Abbey?

Important Addresses
CEO,Hydro Québec, 75 boul René Levesque, Montreal, P.Q., H2Z

Tabaret is a Bad Idea (Part Two)

Les Amis de la Riviere Kipawa is poised to use an application to the Federal Court to issue a Writ of Mandamus to ensure the Minster does what he is supposed to do, protect the public's right to navigate the water control structure at Laniel, Quebec using the Navigable Waters Protection Act. (see

In the now gutted Navigable Waters Protection Act lay the means by which the Minister of Transport could keep the public right of passage down our great Canadian Heritage, our rivers and streams which are threatened especially by resource corporations and power brokers such as Hydro Quebec.

These powerful entities continue to petition that 'this' river or 'that' stream is not navigable and therefore not protectable.
I don't say that dams and bridges should not be built, only that if they are, historical navigation rights should be considered and preserved by making reasonable accommodations for recreational boaters.

It is the Minister of Transport, in exercising the right to allow or disallow work on or over a navigable waterway is what keeps boats and recreational boaters plying our waterways.

To many recent cases launched in the Federal Court concerning the Navigable Waters Protection Act, most recently the case of the Humber Environment Group of Cornerbrook Newfoundland versus the Cornerbrook Pulp and Paper Company indicates that the important oversight is not being faithfully performed. Have we really come to the point now where we must say "such and such a stream is one foot deep, possessing so many cubic feet per second flow and so on?" The answer to this is... YES!

The honourable Mr. Justice John A. O'Keefe, ruled that it had not been shown that the river was navigable. How convenient was that to the Minister? But either the Minister of Transport acts to protect our rivers and streams as a public right or he does not and that means rivers and streams currently enjoyed by kayakers and canoists.

Enough of the cheating, and double-talk. Canadians! our rivers and streams are our own, lets urge the Minister of Transport and the our government to protect them.

Peter Karwacki

Tabaret is a Bad Idea (Part Three)

10 Reasons WhyTabaret is a Bad Idea1) Tabaret is too big. The station is designed to useevery drop of water available in the Kipawawatershed, but will run at only 44 percent capacity.We believe the Tabaret station is designed to usewater diverted from the Dumoine River into theKipawa watershed in the future. 2) The Tabaret project will eliminate the aquaticecosystem of the Kipawa River.The Tabaret project plan involves the diversion of a16-km section of the Kipawa River from its naturalstreambed into a new man-made outflow from LakeKipawa. 3) Tabaret will leave a large industrial footprint on thelandscape that will impact existing tourismoperations and eliminate future tourism potential. 4) The Tabaret project is an aggressive single-purposedevelopment, designed to maximize powergeneration at the expense of all other uses. 5) River-diversion, such as the Tabaret project, takinglarge amounts of water out of a river’s naturalstreambed and moving it to another place, is verydestructive to the natural environment. 6) The Kipawa River has been designated a protectedgreenspace in the region with severe limitations ondevelopment. This designation recognizes theecological, historical and natural heritage value ofthe river and the importance of protecting it.Tabaret will eliminate that value. 7) If necessary, there are other, smarter and morereasonable options for producing hydro power onthe Kipawa watershed. It is possible to build a lowimpactgenerating station on the Kipawa river, andmanage it as a “run-of-the-river” station, makinguse of natural flows while maintaining other values,with minimal impact on the environment. 8) The Kipawa watershed is a rich natural resource forthe Temiscaming Region, resonably close to largeurban areas, with huge untapped potential fortourism and recreation development in the future.Tabaret will severely reduce this potential. 9) Tabaret provides zero long-term economic benefitfor the region through employment. The plan is forthe station to be completely automated andremotely operated. 10) The Kipawa River is 12,000 years old. The riverwas here thousands of years before any peoplecame to the region. The Tabaret project will change all that.

Problems on a local River?

  • There is more to do as well but you have to do your research and above all, don't give up.
  • IN the meantime prepared a document itemizing the history of navigation of this spot and its recreational value. Use the Kipawa river history of navigation as a guide: see
  • Under the Ministry of Environment guidelines you have a set period of time to petition the change under the environmental bill of rights, you may have limited time to take this action. But it involves going to court for a judicial review of the decision.
  • 4. contact the ministry of natural resources officials and do the same thing.
  • 3. contact the ministry of the environment and determine if they approved the project
  • 2. determine if the dam was a legal dam, approved under the navigable waters protection act.
  • 1. research the decision and timing of it to determine if an environmental assessment was done.

Minden Ontario

Minden Ontario
Gull River Water control at Horseshoe lake

A History of Navigation on the Kipawa River

Prior to the environmental assessment there was no signage at the Laniel Dam

T-Shirts Area: These are available now!

T-Shirts Area: These are available now!
Send $25 and a stamped self addressed envelop for the Tshirt, and for the bumper sticker, a stamped and self addressed envelope with $5.00 for the bumper sticker to Les Amis de la rivière Kipawa, 80 Ontario St., Ottawa, Ontario, K1K 1K9 or click the link To purchase a Les Amis "T" contact Doug with the following information: Number of shirts:Sizes: Ship to Address: Method of Payment: cash, cheque and paypal, Shipto address:

Bumper Stickers Now Available

Bumper Stickers Now Available
Get your bumper sticker and show your support for the Kipawa Legal Fund ! - send $5.00 in a Stamped, self addressed envelope to: Peter Karwacki Box 39111, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1H 7X0