The Marsh Mash reached a milestone this year: the 40th year of challenging canoe and kayak marathon races on the Holland Marsh canals.
Event organizer Iain Craig welcomed paddlers to the event May 12 and outlined the six-, nine-, 18- and 24-kilometre routes, and provided safety tips, including the requirement for personal flotation devices.
“The water is still cold,” warned Craig.
But paddlers would face no current, little wind, and no debris.
The local drainage commission was diligent in removing tree limbs, branches and other potential snags after the recent windstorm, although a Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry fishing net, strung all the way across the south canal, did pose a unique challenge.
During the very first Marsh Mash, paddlers made their way around the Holland Marsh on the 27.5 kilometres of canals that ring the agricultural land.
The race got its name from the fact that founders Janice Matichuck and Peter Puddicombe had to “mash” their way through the high weeds that made the canals all but impassable in spots.
Now, 40 years later, a drainage improvement scheme has widened, deepened and cleared the canals, providing great paddling conditions, and paddlers were able to make their way from Westside Community Church in Bradford West Gwillimbury, to Highway 9 in King, and back.
This year’s event saw 110 paddlers register, “which is more than we’ve had before,” said Craig. “We had, today, some of the best teams in the province — some really good competition.”
The International Canoe Federation marathoners received medals, and everyone else participating received a bag of onions or carrots, a potted begonia, and a chance to win local maple syrup — just part of the unique character of the Marsh Mash.