Exploration

Joanie and Gary McGuffin, Canada’s First Couple of canoeing

Episode 66

They turned their honeymoon into an epic canoe trip from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arctic; 40 years later, Gary and Joanie McGuffin share tales of their adventures together and their advice for young explorers

  • Sep 05, 2023
What began 15 years ago as a needle-in-haystack search to find and photograph the exact scenes in Tom Thomson and Group of Seven paintings evolved into a 2015 documentary, Painted Land: In Search of the Group of Seven. The film was co-produced with White Pine Pictures, directed by Phyllis Ellis, and won a Canadian Screen Award. (Photo: Gary McGuffin)
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We’re thrilled that Gary and Joanie McGuffin are joining us for this last episode of our 2023 Summer Canoe series. Be sure to check out the previous two, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and RCGS Explorer-in-Residence Adam Shoalts

Arguably no couple has paddled more of Canada’s waterways than Gary and Joanie have together, and it all started just over 40 years ago when, as newlyweds, they turned their honeymoon into a canoe trip from the Atlantic Ocean, across Canada and up into the Arctic Ocean. That trip inspired the best-selling memoir Where Rivers Run, which was followed by many more paddling adventures and best-sellers. Their documentary, Painted Land: In Search of the Group of Seven, about their efforts to track down, by canoe, the exact sites of famous Group of Seven paintings in Northern Ontario, won a Canadian Screen Award. They are the founders of the Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy and their current project is a Smithsonian exhibit, traveling through Canada and the U.S., called Stories of the Boreal Forest.

Gary and Joanie have a lot of great stories from their many paddling adventures and there are a lot of great nuggets of advice in here for young explorers, including how to get started and how to canoe long distances as a couple, and then with a child, and then with a dog. It’s a fun and inspiring conversation. Enjoy!

Gary on the tidal flats of the St. Lawrence River in early May 1983 in the first week of the McGuffins’ cross-Canada voyage — also their first week of married life. (Photo: Gary McGuffin)
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Gary and Joanie paddling some technical whitewater rapids while working on their book Paddle Your Own Canoe: An Illustrated Guide to the Art of Canoeing. (Photo: Gary McGuffin)
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Joanie and daughter Sila paddling through the boreal landscape of Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, Ont. while the McGuffins’ Alaskan Malamute Luna swims the lake between portages to cool off on a hot summer’s day. (Photo: Gary McGuffin)
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