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New record set at Mattawa River Canoe Race

'Paddlers pushed through five mandatory portages, low water levels and high winds'

Paddlers were put to the test competing for top spot during the North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority’s 43rd Annual Mattawa River Canoe Race.

Sixty-six teams from three provinces and two countries, Hong Kong and Africa, set off early Saturday morning from Olmsted Beach in North Bay, tackling the 64 km route that ended at Mattawa Island.

Paddlers pushed through five mandatory portages, low water levels and high winds.

“The water is quite low especially once they get past Pimisi Bay. So, there are more portages than usual,” explained Paula Loranger, community relations coordinator for the NBMCA.  

In the end, Michelle Laprade and Ryan Stepka of Gatineau Quebec won the Fastest Overall Time trophy with a time of 6:09:43.

Bonnie Pankiw from Chelsea, QC and partner Ellen Padzdior from Ottawa set a record in the C2 Stock Women’s Class with a time of 7:47:37 shattering the previous record of 9:00:12.

Paddlers in the 13 km family and junior races pushed off from Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, also finishing at Mattawa Island.

The family race was added in 1996.

“They only have the one portage which is around Hurdman Dam, so it is a good introductory race for families to get out and have a good time together,” said Loranger.  

First time competitors Maeve Stemp and mom Susan Stemp were looking forward to a good day on the water.

“As far as preparation, we went out for a few times at our cottage, paddled around, did a few portages, played around with who would go in the front and the back. A couple of years ago we did go from North Bay to here, a two-day camping trip. It was about 20 km a day, so that was good experience,” said the teen.

“We were more in this one just to finish it with a good time and just racing against ourselves. My dad has been doing the 64 km for a few years.”

Mom Susan said she was inspired by her husband.

“We watched Mike train for the last few years doing this, and we thought about doing the race. We didn’t get around to it last year, but we thought it would be a good thing to do the family event. Before today we only did 7 km but that was on big open water with winds and white caps on occasions,” said Susan.

“It is good mother-daughter bonding time for sure.”

The North Bay team finished second in the Recreational Family A category with a time of 2:02:02 behind Paul and Sedona Terry of Stirling with the winning time of 1:45:58.

The complete list of results and photos are available on the NBMCA’s website at