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Setting sail on the historic waterway

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For most, life may not be a riverboat fantasy as the song claims. But for the 11 people who cruised Lake of the Woods last weekend, life became just that.

And the event might be the boost needed to get more people taking advantage of the Historic Boundary Waterway’s natural beauty.

“We’ve always wanted to go on Lake of the Woods and we’ve only heard intimidating things,” said Lori Elliott, who went on the trip with her husband, George, on why they decided to go.

“But it’s just a gorgeous, gorgeous lake.”

“That was really a nice thing to do,” echoed George Supinski, who joined the Elliotts along with his wife, Marie, and their son, John.

Also along for the trip were Merrick and April Chojko-Bolec, Geoff Gillon of the Rainy River Future Development Corp. here, and a couple from Green Bay, Wis.

The three-boat fleet—lead by “Skipper” Jack McTaggart—left Pier North in Morson around 11:30 a.m. Saturday and headed up around the Aulneau Peninsula to Kenora.

But along the way, the boaters got a chance to view the sites Lake of the Woods has to offer, with both Gillon and McTaggart providing some colourful insight into its storied past.

“That lake’s got a lot of history,” noted McTaggart, who included some of the remnants of the big-shipping industry in the complimentary guided tour.

One stop included Fort St. Charles, a fur trading post set up by the Sieur de La Verendrye in 1732 and maintained by the Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus on the U.S. side.

They also were introduced to tourist camp operators on various islands. And at lunch, McTaggart threw over the anchor while the other boats tied on, giving them all a chance to chat.

But it was the natural scenery that won the praises of the boaters. Eagles and white pelicans sailed overhead, with the lake’s many islands providing a breathtaking view of Mother Nature.

“It was just beautiful,” Elliott enthused.

The icing on the cake, Gillon noted, was the magnificent Greek meal they enjoyed at a Kenora restaurant. After overnighting there, the group headed home Sunday morning along a different route, docking at Pier North around 2:30 p.m.

“Seeing all those other folks enjoy the trip was the highlight for me," McTaggart said, admitting the beautiful weather certainly helped. "It all went very well.”

While she felt it was unfortunate only three boats went on the tour, Elliott admitted they still had “the best time.”

But Gillon said the few numbers didn’t really discourage him.

“The first time having done this, I would rather have fewer people,” he explained.

“What we’re finding is we don’t appear to be getting as many people using it as we should be,” he added, explaining with Rainy Lake and Lake of the Woods so big, people weren’t comfortable navigating into new territory on their own.

A veteran boater on Rainy Lake, Supinski said he learned the importance of a good map and map-reading skills when out on a lake as big as Lake of the Woods.

“Anywhere I go, I don’t usually need a map,” he noted.

And with some new-found confidence, the Elliotts toured up to Nestor Falls once the tour was over—just for ice-cream.

The Historic Boundary Waterway suffering a small blow last month when it had to cancel its trip from here to Rainy River due to lack of interest. But with the Kenora trip such a hit, Gillon now is looking at the guided tours with renewed optimism.

Next season, he’s hoping to stage about a half-dozen like it.

His big dream, though, is to have people travelling along the waterway from Kenora to take advantage of what Rainy River District has to offer.

For now, he’s hoping to round off the season with a boat trip to Emo for the Rainy River Valley Agricultural Society Fall Fair. That depends on whether dock space will be available in Emo.

But for now, he’s basking in the success of the weekend’s tour.

“It was just phenomenal,” he noted.

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