People & Culture

Wally Schaber and the Last of the Wild Rivers

Episode 43

Canoeing legend Wally Schaber talks about his lifelong love of the Dumoine River, the last of the wild rivers in the Ottawa river watershed

  • Published Jul 12, 2022
  • Updated Aug 09
Wally Schaber on the Dumoine, below Eye of the Needle Rapids. (Photo: Meredith Brown)
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Now that we’re deep into summer paddling season, let’s hop in a canoe with a genuine Canadian canoeing legend and ride some frothing, churning white water.

As the founder of Blackfeather Wilderness Adventures, and Trailhead Outfitters, for more than 50 years, Wally Schaber has led trips down Canada’s most iconic rivers, many in the arctic, like the Nahanni, the Hood, the Coppermine, the MacKenzie, paddling with everyone from former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, to his canoeing mentor, Bill Mason.

But when it came time to write a book about his favourite river, it was one much closer to his home in west Quebec’s Gatineau Hills, a place he’s known since childhood, the Dumoine.

His book “The Last of the Wild Rivers,” explores the Dumoine’s rich history, going back to the First Nations, the fur trade and logging boom, and his own experiences on this beautiful, unspoilt stretch of water, just a few hours from Ottawa, and his ongoing efforts to keep it wild, through his organization, Friends of the Dumoine.

As RCGS Fellow and canoeing historian James Raffan describes it, “The book is much more than a river biography, it’s a river elegy and love story between a man and a very special place.”

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