Thursday 10 May 2018

Canoe Legend Phil Cotton Passes Away

I've been sitting on this for a few days now because I really wanted to write something to honour Phil Cotton but I felt like it was not my place because I did not know him.  I just know of him.  I believe we only exchanged words one single time on the MyCCR forums, so that was the closest I ever got to him.  But wow it is difficult to be passionate about canoes and not know who he is - he is right up there with Bill Mason and in some ways his accomplishments in the canoeing world are possibly even greater.  It is probably just because his stompin' grounds were in an obscure remote location - Wabakimi Provincial Park - that most people had never heard of him.

Phil spent his entire life advocating for the preservation of our wild spaces, and was just at home in meetings with government officials as he was in the classroom where he spent 40 years as a music teacher.  But it was not until he retired from that profession that he did something which truly elevated him to the status of "legend" - in 2004 he started the Wabakimi Project to map historic canoe routes in the park and the crown lands surrounding it, and 10 years later in in 2014 he founded Friends of Wabakimi to carry this legacy forward.

At a point in his life when most people are considering slowing down, Phil Cotton made the decision to spend most of his summers in a canoe living his passion for the outdoors.  And really I think it is best to use his own words to underscore what an incredible impact he's had.  In January of this year he posted his annual message to the MyCCR forums soliciting volunteers for this summer.  Sadly, this was to be the last year of the project, so Phil never got to see it to the end.  Here is what Phil wrote in January, and you can follow the link in the previous sentence to read the entire thread.

I never got to know Phil, but I do hope one day to take advantage of his hard work.  Hopefully one summer soon I will be able to take a 2 week trip to Wabakimi.  Thanks, Phil, for making it possible!

From his annual post soliciting volunteers for 2018 :

The Wabakimi Project is a grassroots volunteer initiative founded in 2004 to explore and map the historical and traditional canoe routes of Wabakimi Provincial Park. Since its inception, the scope of this ambitious conservancy effort has been expanded to include the canoe routes that lie on the Crown lands adjacent to the park. They provide vital access to Wabakimi as well as strategic links to road and rail access points and other nearby provincial parks and conservation reserves.

Over the past 14 years, 208 different volunteer trip leaders and participants from North America, New Zealand and Europe have collectively spent a total of 1,179 days on 142 trips exploring and mapping canoe routes in the Wabakimi Area. Together, they've travelled 5,146km (3,198 miles) through this vast, virtually-roadless wilderness area, inventoried 1,001 campsites and rehabilitated 1,020 portages whose measured lengths have totalled 262,935m (287,549 yards or 52,282 rods).

The Wabakimi Project conducts one-week (8-day/7-night) guided, fully-outfitted reconnaissance expeditions from late May to mid-September with a hiatus during July. Applications are welcome from eligible paddlers. Early registration is recommended as bookings are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Discounts are available to 3-person affinity groups that book the same trip and to trip participants who volunteer to be designated drivers to transfer fellow participants and their gear between Thunder Bay and Armstrong Station.

2018 will be the final year of operation of The Wabakimi Project. If a canoe trip to the Wabakimi Area has been on your bucket list, now is the time to act! Don't miss the opportunity to participate in this unique and worthwhile canoe route conservancy effort. 

For more information, visit The Wabakimi Project at: and the Friends of WabakimiFacebook page at: http://www.facebook/friendsofwabakimi.

To obtain a copy of this year's prospectus, Wabakimi 2018 - Dates, Rates & Terms, contact The Wabakimi Projectat: or send me a PM or e-mail.


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