Kayaking in Canada

I have a few questions regarding this topic, if anyone has experience - I would appreciate some insight.

How many months per year is is possible to paddle in Canada (i.e. Toronto or Vancouver)?
Is it possible to continue kayaking through the winter, (assuming right equipment is available), or the bays / rivers / lakes freeze and weather makes this impossible (or very hard)?
For some reference - I’ve had so far experience paddling at +5°C and didn’t find it too uncomfortable.

For Is it better to be near the ocean in this regard, or near lakes and rivers?

Are there lots of kayaking clubs which paddle on regular basis, few times a week, or people usually paddle on weekends only?

If you have the right equipment and skills you can paddle all year. The entire country does not freeze over. You can find open water easily on the big rivers, ocean and the Great Lakes.

Can paddle year round in both… But Vancouver and Toronto have wildly different climates.
5 c is not - 5c. The latter would be in T and the former in V. Lows can be -20 in T and you wont get that in V.
Both places are warmer than inland where I am in the winter. We have hard water Dec-April and they do not. I am in the US. Even here we can paddle in the ocean if we want as salt water does not freeze until it gets and stays very cold and then in the inlets mostly. I don’t much care for winter paddling anymore but we used to paddle salt water down to -20 C.

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Vancouver sea kayaking is year round, but you pretty much need a dry suit for the cooler months. No ice on the water. Here is some water temperature info for Vancouver:

Here is info for Toronto

Do the great lakes freeze? if so, it looks like it would be iced in for 2-3 months.

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The Great Lakes can freeze. More common on Superior, which is further north, though it is larger of course. It’s uncommon for them to freeze over entirely (though in the past, this used to happen), but freezing near the shore where the water is shallower can occur on any of the Great Lakes.

Here in Saskatchewan, on the prairies, even the largest lakes (like Lake Athabasca) freeze over entirely, and don’t thaw enough for kayaking until late in the spring. Up north, lakes may not thaw enough until well into June or later. The rivers up north here are just thawing out over the last few days.

The continental US covers about 25 degrees of latitude. Canada, though smaller in area, covers 41 degrees. It’s a big country with a wide range of climate zones and water systems.

In fact, Canada has 9 times more lakes than the USA, in fact the most in the world at nearly 880,000. US is third with about 109,000. Russia is second at a bit over 200,000. Canada also has the longest marine coastline of any nation in the world at over 151,000 miles. So, yeah, you can probably always find a place with open water somewhere in Canada.

There is WAY more to Canada than Toronto and Vancouver.


Um, last I saw Canada was the second biggest country by area, with US coming in fourth after China.


Not always. Watch the Weather Channel and when they talk about lake effect snow in Dec and Jan its because air passing over cold water ( not ice) picks up moisture and dumps it on land. There areas of Michigan and NY that get as much snow from lake effect as the Sierras in California. I had the privilege of trying to get through Oswego one year after a dump of 108 inches all in one storm.
This is an interesting graphic. Of course shore areas ice over first and yeah you should launch from shore not an ice shelf

Canada smaller than US…funny. Next, you’ll tell me that Texas is larger than Ontario or Quebec :smiley:

Even though the Great Lakes may not be frozen over (depending on the winter), there will be ice at the shore, making it dangerous at time to access the water.

Depending where you are in Canada, it is possible to paddle all year around, or close to it.

Yup, my bad. Canada is “smaller” in urban and developed area, but over half a million square km larger in total area than the US. My geography prof would have boxed my ears for that goof.

See humble apology above^^^^

I should know better. I love Canada, a favorite adventure destination of mine for 65 years (since camping in Ontario as a kid).

And my last job for 11 years was with the US branch of a major Canadian firm. Missed the boat in not taking an internal transfer to the Calgary or Vancouver offices while I was still with them.

Hoping to get to Ontario this July for a long-postponed paddling meetup with a canoe and kayak buddy in Kingston. He was an early mentor in kayaking and can now coach me in solo canoe. Return trips to Vancouver Island and the Canadian Rockies are near the top of the bucket list.

Not a problem, I hope you took my response in the joking manner it was meant in.

We have a friend that just moved to the Gananoque area (a bit east of Kingston) after many years in SW Ontario. We are hoping to spend some time paddling with him next year.

I gathered that.

I have paddled up there with the Cataraqui Canoe and Kayak Club based in Kingston, of which my friend is a long time member. Really great bunch of active outdoors folk from their 20s to their 80s. Did a portion of the Rideau canal and some of the maze of inlets before the man-made channels start.

Kayak camping in the 1000 Islands is magical.

Its been years but we used to paddle to Gananoque and dock there and wander to eat lunch in town in paddling clothes

If paddling and camping around islands near the US/Canada border, especially the Thousand Islands areas; a GPS, compass, and chart are recommended. Most of the islands are privately owned. You have to be really careful that you do not violate the customs laws and stray across the international line when landing anywhere. You can’t just hop around different islands that are part of the US or Canada if crossing over without checking in with customs. Both sides take that very seriously and fines and penalties are severe and strictly enforced. There is a customs office in Gananoque.

You can paddle across the border without checking in with customs, but not land. Always have at least a passport handy when boating on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence.

It’s been a while since I’ve paddled in Canada so I am not aware of recent changes. There are a few different rules for kayaking in Canada. The one I remember is you are required to have readily available a throw bag with 50’ of line, although I had no trouble with a tow rig with 40’ of line. There is a lot of information on boating between the US and Canada on line.

Be aware that thunderstorms are common in summer and can move in incredibly fast from west to east. You often have less time to get to shelter than you think.

Canada’s area is actually complicated. Land area may be smaller than the US’s, if you exclude lakes. If you include lakes, Canada is larger.

Thanks everyone - I guess I get the overall picture

We paddle year round at least 2 times a week. We are fortunate to live in an area where we always seem to find incredible paddles even on the days where there is a lot of wind. There are many places around Vancouver Island that are protected and sheltered from the open Pacific Ocean.

There are some lovely paddling opportunities around Kingston. There’s Frontenac Provincial Park and there’s the Thousand Islands, just for a start!

Yes, I have visited both with my Kingston paddling friend. Hoping to get back there soon, but with the rise in covid infections it is hard to predict border crossing protocols as the year progresses. Infection, hospitalizations and deaths are increasing in my city to the point where mask and distancing protocols are being reinstated.