2017 Voyageurs Rendezvous Canoe Race
June 28 – July 23, 2017
The canoe teams began arriving in Rocky Mountain House on June 28, 2017, where they made camp at the Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site. On the June 29, the canoes were weighed and measured at River Park with many spectators and officials at hand. The regulations were read and the canoes were loaded up for the canoe parade, over the bridge and into the town site, coming up through main street market, where over a thousand people cheered the paddlers on! The canoes were taken to the Christiansen Sports & Wellness Centre to be put on display for the Voyageur’s Banquet & Ball that evening. Many were in attendance, including a large faction of the original 1967 Centennial Canoe Pageant paddlers. The paddlers and guests enjoyed a wonderful roast bison supper, with welcoming speeches hosted by Rocky Mountain House’s Mayor Fred Nash, Clearwater County’s Pat Alexander, Greg Joyce of Parks Canada, Jim Duncan of The Confluence Heritage Society and Vic Maxwell, Chief Voyageur and Captain of the 67 Alberta team, among others. Ralph Caribou of Team Ma-chee-as spoke on behalf of the teams. After dinner and dancing, paddlers made their way back to camp to prepare for the long journey ahead. On June 30, they would test their endurance in the Kick Off Sprint, from Highwater House at the National Historic Site, down to Highway 11A bridge and back, paddling through rapids downstream, and then upstream! The start of the sprint was announced by the Historic Site’s cannon!
The launch day ceremony began early on July 1, with a hearty breakfast and a beautiful send off, complete with a First Nations blessing, words from the region’s MLA Jason Nixon and traditional bag piping by Nancy Gilbert. The race began with a long portage from the launch ceremony area near the canoe pavilion all the way to the boat launch at the far west end of the Historic Site.
The 23 days of racing that followed tested the mental and physical endurance of all 72 athetes as they paddled through 3 provinces and 21 communities on their 1600 km race to The Pas. Stopping each night to rest and celebrate with the people they met along the way helped rejuvenate them and the communities along the way enjoyed the opportunity to meet the athletes and their support crews.
When the daily race results and sprint times were tabulated, the final results were as follows:
First Place: Team Hatchet Lake (Wollaston Lake, SK) – 122 hours, 24 minutes, 23 seconds
Second Place: Highway’s Convenience (Pelican Narrows, SK) – 123 hours, 5 minutes, 8 seconds
Third Place: Cumberland House Cree (Cumberland House, SK & other communities) – 123 hours, 18 minutes, 26 seconds
Fourth Place: Joe Michel Memorial Team (Pelican Narrows, SK & other communities) – 123 hours, 50 minutes, 19 seconds
Fifth Place: Team Savage (Pukatawagan, MB & other communities) – 133 hours, 55 minutes, 47 seconds
Sixth Place: Team Ma-chee-as (Pukatawagan, MB & other communities) – 134 hours, 22 minutes, 41 seconds
Memories were created for not only the paddlers and the support crews but for the communities on the race route who were kind enough to host the teams and crews for one or two nights.Thank you to Rocky Mountain House, Alder Flats, Drayton Valley, Devon Lions Club,Fort Saskatchewan, Metis Crossing, Two Hills, Elk Point, Heinsburg, Onion Lake Cree Nation, Turtleford, The Battlefords, Fort Carlton, Borden, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, James Smith First Nation, Nipawin, Tobin Lake (Thunder Rapids Lodge), Cumberland House and The Pas. The individual, clubs, groups, cities, hamlets, villages and municipalities who made an effort to not only welcome the paddling teams, but to make them feel like a significant thread in the weaving of their communities stories will stay in their hearts until the 2067 race passes through!