This article has been included with permission from Ontario's Southwest. Visit Ontario's Southwest for more great paddling ideas or other adventures awaiting you.
Paddling season can start as early as March and run into November. In the spring, the Thames can offer wildlife encounters as nature comes alive after winter. Summer paddling, especially in the upper branches, can present challenges with flow rates, but is a wonderful time to paddle in Ontario’s Southwest. Paddling in autumn is a wonderful experience with wildlife preparing for winter and the Carolinian forest changing colours. The beginning and end of paddling seasons have colder water and faster flow rates.
Paddling the Upper Branches of the Thames (North, South and Middle) can be affected by water levels, expressed as “flow rate”. The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) has a website on flow rates for paddling specific sections of the river with live river data charts for each section. Be sure to check this page before paddling.
Although low water can prevent navigability of the river and flood conditions can affect safe passage, typically one can expect that the flow rate range for paddling the upper branches of the Thames River is between half and double the UTRCA recommended flow rate for each section. For example, if UTRCA recommends 15cms, expect to be able to paddle in as low as 7.5 cms flow rate or as high as 30cms flow rate. It is still important to check Flood and Low Water Status alerts on the UTRCA website.
Paddling the Lower Thames (known as the “Main Branch”, from the Forks of the North and South branches in London), can be done at almost any flow rate from Delaware to Lake St. Clair. The river slows down and the banks are high, which keeps the river deep enough for small craft to easily navigate. It is still important to check for Flood Status and Low Water Status alerts.
The Lower Thames is known for its rich history related to the War of 1812 with many battle sites near the river and historic stone buildings, wooden structures and bridges that date back to the 1800’s and early 1900’s can be seen while paddling any branch.
In addition to checking flow rates and water levels, there are a number of very important things to know before you get out those paddles. Click each link for more detailed information on each topic:
The paddling is just the start of adventure on the Thames. You can take in even more nature as you paddle the waterways:
Now get out there and start paddling!