2017 Manulife Paddle the Don Cancelled

Toronto and Region Conservation, (TRCA) promotes the safe enjoyment of nature found through the nine watersheds in our jurisdiction.

When public safety is at risk, we are obligated to take every precaution including sometimes the cancellation of events. That is the unfortunate case with the 2017 Manulife Paddle the Don.

Accumulation of rain is causing fast flowing water conditions in our rivers, particularly in the Don and Humber. We are unwilling to compromise the safety of the more than 700 paddlers expected to take part in the event. Therefore, we have chosen to cancel the event this year – the first time ever in its 23 year history.

While this decision was a difficult one to make, we are confident is the right one in light of the heavy rainfall expected to impact Toronto through Saturday. Even once the threat of flooding subsides, the risks to safety for recreational users of our waterways remain. More information regarding the recent Flood Watch issued by TRCA can be found here:

» Flood Watch issued Thursday, May 4, 2017 at 22:00

Manulife Paddle the Don is a massive undertaking requiring months of preparation and commitment from hundreds of volunteers. As a result, rescheduling the event is impossible. However, we look forward to returning next year to celebrate the 25th anniversary, and make it the best year yet.

Early next week we will be issuing instructions for those who have registered to paddle in this year’s event to either donate their fee to the Living City Foundation for the ongoing protection and conservation of the Don River, or obtain a refund.

We understand the disappointment this may cause and trust that you can appreciate our steadfast commitment to the safety of participants and volunteers.

We look forward to seeing you on the river again on Sunday May 6 th , 2018!

Thank you.

The Manulife Paddle the Don Team

Event Safety

Watercraft Safety

  • Please ensure that your canoe and/or kayak is in good repair before the day of the event.
  • Your watercraft will be checked prior to launching to ensure it is safe. Watercraft deemed unsafe or which do not have the proper safety equipment, will not be allowed to launch.
  • Although there are no Transport Canada regulations regarding load capacity of canoes, you should have at least 6″ of freeboard to paddle safely. Watercraft deemed over capacity will not be allowed to launch.
  • Rubber dinghies are not suitable for this event and will not be permitted to launch.
  • As required by Transport Canada, the following safety equipment must be on board
  • Although not a requirement, having a line or ‘painter’ attached at both the bow and stern of your canoe is useful both for convenience and safety.

Personal Safety

  • While Manulife Paddle the Don is open to everyone, when deciding whether to participate, please keep in mind the nature of the river and the capabilities of you, your children and the other paddlers in your canoe/kayak. Strong river currents and hidden obstacles may be encountered.
  • Please use your judgment when determining the number of paddlers that will be in your watercraft including adults and children. It is important to consider your abilities as well as the abilities of the other passengers or paddlers, especially if children are involved. We strongly suggest no more than three adults per canoe and that one paddler must be experienced.
  • Lifejackets must be worn by all participants while on the river.
  • Helmets are not required, but are strongly recommended, especially for children.
  • It is recommended that children are a minimum age of six years old to participate.
  • A waiver and registration form must be completed by each participant prior to launching.

Additional Personal Safety Notes

  • If you find yourself submerged in white-water, move into the defensive swimming position – on your back, facing downstream, feet first with your toes at the surface of the water.
  • Don’t try to stand in fast moving water but rather drift or swim on your back, feet first, to the nearest shore or wait until you’ve travelled to a calmer section of water to make your way to shore.
  • Although Transport Canada requires one whistle per canoe, it is wise for you to have your own attached to your PFD.
  • Your throw-rope must have a weight attached to it for it to properly function. Throw-bags are best suited for this purpose. Practice throwing it once or twice before your trip – it only takes a few minutes.
  • Make sure you have a ‘painter’ or line attached to both the bow and stern of your canoe.
  • The water will be cold, even if the air is not. Dress for these conditions even if you don’t plan on getting wet. Layers work best. Bring a dry-bag to store an extra set of clothing or for storing the layers you want to remove.
  • Always remember to participate within your abilities and comfort level.

Staying Safe Along the Route

  • Members of the Wilderness Canoe Association, the Auxiliary Coast Guard, and the Toronto Police Auxiliary Marine Unit have volunteered their time to assist in making the day a safe one.
  • Mobile safety crews will be stationed at various points along the route.
  • There are rapids that must be negotiated and three weirs that must be portaged during the paddle. Warning signs are posted about 50 metres before each portage take-out. Please use the portage trail. We’ve chosen the easiest, safest places to put your canoe back in the water.
  • Please stay away from the weirs as the currents are very strong.
  • If you are approaching another boat and need to pass, let the other paddlers know you are coming and pass only on straight, calm stretches of the river.


Canoe Rentals

There are a LIMITED number of canoes can be rented through the companies that are listed below:

TRCA will not be responsible for arrangements made by participants with rental companies.


Equipment and Gear Checklist

Safety Equipment:

As required by Transport Canada, the following safety equipment must be on board each watercraft (Vessels over 6 metres in length have additional safety equipment requirements):

One Canadian-approved personal flotation device or lifejacket of appropriate size for each person.  Lifejackets must be worn by all participants while on the river.
One buoyant heaving line at least 15 metres (49’3″) in length.
At least one paddle.
One bailer, minimum of 750 ml in size with a wide opening – an empty bleach container or 2 L pop bottle with the top cut off will work.
A sound-signalling device, such as a whistle (pealess), compressed gas horn or an electric horn.
At least one flashlight.


It is your responsibility to ensure that all of the safety equipment listed above is on board before you launch. If you are renting a canoe, please ensure that the rental company will provide the necessary safety equipment, or that you make arrangements to bring it yourself. TRCA will not supply this equipment; however we will have a limited number of whistles and throw bags containing 50 ft. of buoyant heaving line available for purchase at the launch.

Other Equipment and Gear:

  • Travel mug and/or refillable water bottle – In our ongoing efforts towards sustainability, we are asking participants to bring their own mug and water bottle. Hot beverages and water will be provided at no charge.
  • Backpack or bag you can secure in your canoe.
  • Waterproof/windproof jacket.
  • Extra set of dry clothes sealed in a dry sac or watertight plastic bag.
  • Hat and/or toque.
  • Gloves.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Sturdy boots or shoes.
  • Snacks for along the route (light snacks and refreshments will be provided at the launch, however, you may want to pack some additional items for your trip).
  • Money (to purchase lunch and/or a beer at the Manulife Take-out Party, merchandise, etc.).
  • Identification.

Remember to dress in many layers. It is always windy and colder closer to the lake.

Paddling Route Map

Cancel Your Reservation

Cancellations and refunds for the 2017 Manulife Paddle the Don will be accepted until April 2nd, 2017.
After April 2nd, 2017, you may cancel your reservation; however, the $100 registration fee will no longer be refundable.

If you have any questions please contact us at paddlethedon@trca.on.ca