Click to see the full picture

Scoop Rapids, Sturgeon-Weir River, Saskatchewan.

Devil Lake (Saskatchewan), (1825) from Views from Upper Canada Along the McKenzies by George Back courtesy National Archives of Canada.

Scotland needs Canada

A once in a lifetime opportunity to represent Scotland in Canada, as a member of a 12-person team canoeing 1000km in 16 days.

Join a Scottish team to paddle a single 25-foot voyageur canoe over 1000km in two weeks across the landscape that gave birth to the canoe. Pass through small Indian reserves, shoot rapids and traverse huge lakes in a race down one of North America's finest canoeing rivers: the historic Churchill River in Canada's remote northern Saskatchewan.

The La Loche River, race stage 1. Click to see enlarged version.

The La Loche River, race stage 1.


1000km canoe race.

The Saskatchewan Centennial Canoe Quest is a televised, sixteen day 1000km canoe race. It will be gruelling, you'll get smelly and dirty, dehydrated and exhausted, but it may just be the most exciting experience you have this year...or ever.


Churchill and Sturgeon-Weir Rivers, Northern Saskatchewan, Canada.

Travelling through the heart of Canada's remote Northern Saskatchewan wilderness, the race starts from the Clearwater River Dene Nation, on Lac La Loche, and follows the historic Churchill River via a series of lakes and rapid channels to the Frog Portage. This short hop leads over a significant watershed to the much smaller Sturgeon-Weir River which flows down to Cumberland House, the first inland trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company.

A map of the race route is available here.

The Canadian canoeing experience: big wildlife (a female moose). Click to see enlarged version.

The Canadian canoeing experience: big wildlife (a female moose).


June 11th to July 7th, 2005.

The race teams have to be in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan for June 18th. The race proper starts on June 20th and, like a motor rally or the Tour de France, continues in day-long stages until the final race day, July 5th.

The team will camp out every night. On most race nights, the teams will be the guests of small first-nation communities on the race route, but some stages are through areas so remote that there are no habitations nearby, so all teams will camp together in the wilderness.

To overcome jetlag and allow adequate race preparation in the big 25 foot canoe, our team should aim to be in Canada a week before the race, i.e. by June 11th. We will base ourselves in the welcoming community of La Ronge which provides all the essential facilities we'll require for preparation: beautiful Lac La Ronge for big canoe practice; campsite (i.e. cheap) accommodation; and Robertson's Trading Post for the best hand-crafted Native American souvenirs available in Canada.

Kids of Cumberland House, Saskatchewan. Click to see enlarged version.

Kids of Cumberland House, Saskatchewan.

This means that participants need to be available for three and a half weeks in early summer.


Wilderness, pageant, unforgettable.

Scotsman Alexander Mackenzie came this way en route to the Pacific Ocean in the first crossing of North America in 1793. Franklin led his crew up the Churchill on his first two expeditions to explore a Northwest Passage. And the continent's earliest inhabitants have lived along this life-giving waterway for thousands of years. So it's fitting that, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its creation, the Canadian province of Saskatchewan is holding a canoe race and pageant along this majestic waterway from its headwaters at the community of La Loche, to the important Frog Portage, down the pristine Sturgeon-Weir River and on to the once-important trading hub of Cumberland House. And it's important that Scotland is there to represent the large contribution that our small nation has made to the history and culture of Saskatchewan and Canada. Besides, it'll be a lot of fun and you may even meet a few long-lost relatives.

The Canadian canoeing experience: the campfire. Click to see enlarged version.

The Canadian canoeing experience: the campfire.

Canadians are renowned for their genuine hospitality, and as Scots—curiosities to some, kinsmen to many—the reception we can expect will be overwhelming. As Saskatchewan celebrates its history and culture, we will be privileged to witness authentic traditional native festivities and hospitality: this is the kind of experience you can't buy on a package deal or find in your "Rough and Lonely" guide. Shame we'll probably be too knackered to join in!

A television production company is planning to cover the race and has selected three teams to concentrate on. Ours is one, so if you want to get on telly this is your chance.

Oh yes...there's prize money available too.

More than three weeks in the great Canadian wilderness—the home of canoeing and the best paddling terrain on the planet—vs. another lousy Scottish summer, maybe with a day trip on the Tay or Tweed? It's a nae brainer!


8-12 willing adventurers.

Potter Rapids, race stage 12. Click to see enlarged version.

Potter Rapids, race stage 12.

The team captain is Duncan Thomson, who has recently returned to Scotland having spent the past two years canoeing across Canada with his wife Abi. As a section of their journey they paddled the Churchill and Sturgeon-Weir Rivers. They spent 8 months wintering in La Ronge, Saskatchewan, where the team will be based in the lead-up to the race so they know the country and residents well. Information about their expedition can be found at

We need 8-12 men and women in the team.

The race is broken into 16 one-day-long stages. Each day, 6 members selected from the team paddle the canoe while the remaining members drive support vehicles to the next stage's end and prepare camp.

Trade Lake, race stage 12. Click to see enlarged version.

Trade Lake, race stage 12.

Selection Criteria

The only firm rules are that canoeists must be at least 18 years of age (as of June 18, 2005), have a full UK or EU driving licence and be able to swim.

Canoeing experience is desirable but not essential. Just as important is a desire to live outdoors, under nylon, for three weeks.

The team would greatly benefit from the participation of a piper. However, the piper's repertoire is required to be broader than just "Last of the Mohicans", so that's most of the Royal Mile's buskers ruled out.

During the longer stages, we can expect to be paddling for up to ten hours a day. This is very hard and requires a lot of endurance, especially as subsequent days compound the fatigue. Rotating which team members provide the land support offers some opportunity for rest and recuperation, but even though canoeing is weight-supportive, and therefore quite forgiving for us chubsters, team members should be reasonably fit and be willing to get very tired.

The Canadian canoeing experience: the Precambrian Shield. Click to see enlarged version.

The Canadian canoeing experience: the Precambrian Shield.

Members should be prepared to meet regularly at mutually convenient times (e.g. weekends) to practice, get to know one another and learn to get along. Our provisional training location is Loch Tay (big lake, nice river.)

With such short notice, we'll be lucky to find 12 people who can be free from June 11th to July 7th and be able to finance themselves, so don't rule yourself out if you feel you don't have the experience or skill; if you think you'd enjoy it, go for it!

Equal Opportunities

The aim of our team is to enjoy the experience, finishing with the same enthusiasm and sense of humour that we start with. In this spirit, with the exception of the team captain (who will paddle each day) every team member is guaranteed the opportunity to paddle the same number of days, if they so choose, without consideration of their ability.

How much

A lot, but cheap nonetheless.

Like any experience of this kind, it doesn't come for free. Although it is cheaper than 3 weeks with Club Med, the unfortunate reality is that we must pay for airfares, a few nights' accommodation, minibus hire, as well covering the cost of a 25 foot canoe. Whilst we are making every effort to secure sponsorship, each member should realise that they may be liable for up to £2000: this includes airfares, accommodation, transportation and fuel, food and essential equipment.

The Canadian canoeing experience: a Saskatchewan sunset. Click to see enlarged version.

The Canadian canoeing experience: a Saskatchewan sunset.

The amount each individual will be expected to commit will vary considerably on a large number of parameters: some to be decided by the team as a whole (e.g. hotel rooms vs. camping) while others are largely out of our control (e.g. exchange rate, cost of flights).

Next step

Drop us a note.

If you are interested in joining the Scottish team to participate in this event or have any questions, please send an email to

The Saskatchewan Centennial Canoe Quest website has more detailed information regarding the event, itinerary, regulations and links.