“a true canadian portage”: In memory of kirk wipper


LOVES Wooden Canoes
The canoe carried aboriginal people for thousands of years, followed then by the explorers and the missionaries and the engineers and the surveyors….until in modern times it gives us the gift of freedom. The canoe is a vehicle that carries you into pretty exciting places, not only into whitewater but into the byways and off-beaten places….You are removed entirely from the mundane aspects of ordinary life. You’re witnessing first hand beauty and peace and freedom – especially freedom….Flirtation with the wilderness is contact with truth, because the truth is in nature….I like to identify myself with something that is stable and enduring. Although [nature] is in a state of flux, it is enduring. It is where reality is. I appreciate the canoe for its gifts in that direction. - Kirk Wipper, from CBC Radio’s Ideas program The Perfect Machine: The Canoe.

Watercraft was humankind’s most important conveyance outside of walking. - Kirk Wipper

In its contemporary use, the canoe and kayak become a medium to experience peace, beauty, freedom and adventure. These values are of utmost significance in a world which has lost much of its contact with the profound lessons learned in nature. To travel the paths in natural places makes all the differences and in this the canoe and kayak are essential partners. – Kirk Wipper

Tho’ they rest inside, in our dreams they’ll glide

On the crests of streams of yore.

In the mid-day sun, they’ll make their run

and night on a distant shore.

The travelers are gone their unmatched brawn

Who plied the mapless ways

But their craft we keep tho the paddlers sleep.

Their stars we seek today. - from Kanawa Collection (now the CanadianCanoe Museum)

A better understanding of one’s past can only lead to better understanding of one’s present and one’s future. (Quote from slide at Kirk Wipper’s presentation in Gravenhurst in October 2010….shown on video of this talk by Brian Hayden, from his Docanoementary.)

You have to do what you can, do your best with what you are. And you have to believe in wilderness. If you do that you can’t go wrong. – Kirk Albert Walter Wipper b Grahamdale, Manitoba, December 6th, 1923 d Peterborough, Ontario, March 18, 2011

It’s the portage that makes travelling by canoe unique. – Bill Mason

When you look at the face of Canada and study the geography carefully, you come away with the feeling that God could have designed the canoe first and then set about to conceive a land in which it could flourish. - Bill Mason, Path of the Paddle

I have written about portages on other online forums….especially long ones. I have even debated with others whether taking such long portages are worth it or not. It is true that sometimes we need to take a longer portage to get to that special lake….or some other special natural place like an old growth forest. There are even long portages that were historical in nature, like the Toronto Carrying Place. Now there is another long portage being planned…..one beginning in Toronto and ending in Peterborough….one that celebrates the legacy of a man who loved both wild natural places, those special places of wilderness, and canoes….actually more than just a love of canoes (although he collected more than his share of canoes, kayaks, and associated watercraft), but also a love of canoeing and all things involved in paddling (especially sharing that with others)….and this long portage will be more than merely worth the while.

Here is an email that I received….and I thought this was worth repeating here:

Tribute to Kirk, Portaging a canoe from Hart House at UofT April 28 to the Canoe Museum for the May1. Event Details at www.kirkwipper.ca

Quick links:





Event e mail:


Get involved, Tell a friend.

Kirk will always be with us every step of the way.


We are organizing an event whereby the many friends, colleagues and former students of Kirk may show their love and respect for a “true Canadian”. As well as paying tribute to Kirk we would like to raise funds for the Kirk Wipper award at UofT and the Canadian Canoe Museum which he helped establish. The essence of the tribute is portaging a canoe from Hart House at UofT to the Museum, in Peterborough in his honour. Details at www.kirkwipper.ca wipper portage tab at the top of the page.

The event will begin on Thursday April 28/11 at Hart House and finish at the Museum on Sunday May 1/11 at 2p.m. which will coincide with a memorial already planned at the Museum. We will be portaging approximately 40 Km/day on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and the final leg will be 10 Km on Sunday. The route will be divided into 13 sections of 10 Km each and will essentially follow a Google map walking route from Hart House to the Museum with some tweaking. In order to ease the organizational aspect we are looking for an additional 12 section leaders who will take responsibility for a particular 10 Km section (please see attached Section Leader form).

Above all we are looking for friends of Kirk who would like to demonstrate their respect for him by taking responsibility for portaging the canoe 500 metres each. It would be fantastic if each portager would/could raise a minimum of $100.00 each (more would be even better) that will be donated to either the Kirk Wipper award or the Museum (see attached form).

Please note that some of you may not have the capacity to carry the canoe but that’s not to say that your children, relatives or friends could not do it on your behalf. Creativity is more than welcomed. Please feel free to contribute any additional ideas for this fun event.

One suggestion that has been made is that individual sections could be portaged by specific groups of friends of Kirk. This could be an individual PHE graduating year or a group of campers or camping staff.

If you are able to be involved in this please email Neil Sorbie at wipperportage@gmail.com and indicate if you wish to be a section leader, portager, spotter or other (or all of the above).

Thank You,

Neil Sorbie

John Butterill

This is a great idea….a great way to honour Kirk Wipper….a portage that is well worth taking. I intend to take part….and welcome anyone willing to sponsor an old guy to portage a canoe for a very worthy cause, and in the memory of a great man, to contact me directly at mormsby6@hotmail.com.

Paddles up until later then….and join in the portage to celebrate Kirk’s life.
The portage in honour of Kirk is a week away....if you can help in any way please feel free to join in....we're looking for support in all areas....whether actually portaging the canoe....donate money or even time....or whatever you're able to do....the main thing is that we complete this portage for Kirk.
Just a couple of days left before the portage to honour Kirk....and still could use any help folks are willing to offer....especially with actual portage of canoe....we could use bodies to carry the canoe.
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