The draft Paddling Plan, and protecting and enhancing the river corridor

    Why would people want to paddle on the Thames River in London?

    People paddle for many reasons including recreational activities, social activities, and nature appreciation. 

    Paddling on the river provides the opportunity to explore London and appreciate the cultural and natural beauty of our unique Canadian Heritage River from a new perspective. 

    It also helps people get outside and exercise, and provides mental health benefits of spending time in nature.

    Why are existing Thames River accesses points in parks being enhanced?

    Existing accesses points in parks are being enhanced to protect and enhance the ecosystem health of the river corridor by providing safe and sustainable access to the river for all ages and abilities in strategic locations away from sensitive habitats.

    Formalizing sustainable access to the river is supported by and helps implement the policies and recommendations in the:

    1. London Plan (2016),
    2. Thames Valley Corridor Plan (2011),
    3. One River Environmental Assessment - River Management Plan (2019),
    4. Parks and Recreation Master Plan (2019),
    5. Council's Strategic Plan (2019-2023),
    6. Provincial Policy Statement (2020),
    7. Thames Strategy: Managing the Thames as a Canadian Heritage River (2000).

    How were First Nations communities consulted?

    First Nations communities were consulted through the One River Environmental Assessment process, and a First Nations Engagement Plan was prepared and implemented to facilitate meaningful engagement and discussion with First Nations. 

    Additional opportunities for engagement and conversation with First Nations will be explored through the implementation process of the draft Paddling Plan.

    How were existing paddling accesses in parks identified for review?

    Existing paddling accesses in parks were identified through a review of the City of London Fish and Paddle Guide, the One River EA River Management Plan, and other Thames River paddle maps. Local paddling groups, tourism agencies, the UTRCA, and others continue to update various paddle maps, and lists of accesses in London to bring people back to the river. 

    Inspections were also completed to identify and assess a series of safe, accessible, and sustainable access sites on public property in parks. Existing accesses were reviewed for accessibility, location appropriateness, existing amenities, cost considerations, and complexity. Existing accesses will also be reviewed by ecological consultants for sensitive habitats prior to formalization.

    What amenities will be added to the recommended existing accesses in parks?

    Existing accesses will be generally made safer and more sustainable by improving existing trail and pathway connections from existing parking lots, adding paddling information and directional signs, adding benches and picnic tables nearby along the existing Thames Valley Parkway system.

    The City anticipates two types of sustainable accesses. Most will continue as existing natural surface accesses with minor enhancements, and some will be designed to be fully accessible which could potentially include hard surface ramps, docks, or boardwalks. 

    Priority invasive species will be managed to enhance the ecosystem health of the river corridor and improve the paddling experience. Habitat enhancements like bat boxes, bird boxes and fishing line recycling containers will also be added where appropriate.

    Why are some informal existing river accesses being closed?

    To protect paddlers and the ecosystem health of the river corridor, some of the existing, informal accesses will be closed, and information will be posted about protecting the river corridor along with directions to the nearest open, sustainable, and managed access point. 

    This will help protect and enhance the ecosystem health of the river corridor while directing use to safe and sustainable accesses for all ages and abilities in strategic locations away from sensitive habitats.

    What is an accessible paddling access?

    At a minimum, an accessible access to the river will typically have a firm and stable pathway connection from the existing parking lot to the access point consistent with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). It will also meet all technical requirements for accessibility, including minimum width and head clearance space.

    Some accessible accesses will also include ramps or docks, or boardwalks designed to meet AODA and other best practices while carefully integrating with the natural environment away from sensitive habitats.

    When will the existing access enhancements in parks be complete?

    As part of Phase 1, minor improvements at a few sustainable, existing natural access locations will be implemented in 2023.

    Phase 2 will include detail design work and studies in advance of installing or repairing a few fully accessible launches on each branch in future years. This work would also be in conjunction with some stormwater engineering projects through to 2025.

    The Springbank Dam decommissioning work is expected to commence in 2023. 

    When will the Springbank dam be decommissioned?

    Construction is expected to commence in 2023. 

    How are sensitive species and habitats being protected?

    Two environmental impact studies were completed in 2019 as part of the One River Environmental Assessment and River Management Plan. The draft Paddling Plan is helping implement those recommendations and protect sensitive habitats and species. Additional environmental impact studies will be coordinated where appropriate consistent with the London Plan.

    Existing accesses are reviewed for sensitive habitats by ecological consultants prior to any enhancements and formalization. Some existing informal accesses will be closed and barricaded and/or planted with native vegetation to discourage use and to direct paddlers to less sensitive, more suitable, and sustainable access locations.

    Accesses will be carefully integrated into the natural environment, educational signage about protecting the river ecosystem will be posted, invasive species will continue to be managed, and native trees will be planted and protected.

    How is the ecosystem health of the river corridor being enhanced?

    Invasive species are being managed consistent with the London Invasive Plant Management Strategy and the recommendations of the One River Environmental Assessment and River Management Plan.

    Habitat enhancements including bird boxes, bat boxes, and native trees and shrubs will be added near existing access points.

    The Thames River Clear Water Revival (TRCWR) is a long-term partnership initiative that is committed to a healthy and vital Thames River, which will ultimately benefit Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie. The TRCWR brings together all levels of government, Conservation Authorities, First Nations, and the local community to achieve this common goal.

    What is the River Management Plan?

    The River Management Plan provides direction on maintaining and improving the quality and safety of existing access locations. This includes:

    1. Existing access locations include formal pathways, fishing and boat access, and lookouts.
    2. Areas of erosion and bank instability will be improved and repaired.
    3. Natural heritage features will be protected with mitigation of non-native species.
    4. New strategic access points will be constructed while protecting sensitive habitat infringement, considering formalizing existing informal access points.

Paddling in London

    Where can I paddle in London now?

    The Fish and Paddle Guide has information on paddling in London.

    The right to paddle on the river is protected by Canadian law and the public have a right to travel on it under the Canadian Navigable Waters Act. However, trespassing on private property in order to access the river is not legal.

    The Fish and Paddle Guide also has information about being eco-friendly including leaving no trace and not releasing bait fish or goldfish.

    When will the Fish and Paddle Guide be updated?

    The City is targeting 2023 to begin an update to the Fish and Paddle Guide.

    Does the City have canoes and kayaks for rent?

    No, but other groups like the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority may rent them at times for use at Fanshawe Reservoir in London for example.

    Where can I learn more about London’s designated Canadian Heritage River and how to protect it?

    Canadian Heritage Rivers are recognized for their outstanding contributions to the country’s cultural heritage, natural heritage, and recreational opportunities. More information about the Thames River designation can be read online.

    The City has also created an interactive map about the Thames River that can be reviewed online. 

    What water levels are considered safe for paddling?

    The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) maintains a webpage about Canoeing and Kayaking on the Thames as water levels can be too low (or too high) for paddling at times and it is best to check UTRCA’s real time flow data and recommended flow levels for paddling in specific sections of the watershed.

    If river flows are high, especially after a major rainfall, postpone your trip until the flows have returned to safer levels. Flows can change quickly. Wade only where you can see the bottom. Be aware that there may be holes or deeper areas close to you.

    When water levels are unsafe for paddling, a “Boating Ban” is implemented in London and enforced by London Police, when river flows reach dangerous amounts (the threshold being 235 cu m /sec at the Byron Water Level Gauge). However, paddlers need to gauge their own skill level and expertise and act accordingly even with lower water levels.

    Are lifejackets recommended for paddling?

    Yes. The Government of Canada’s Office of Boating Safety regulates the use of pleasure craft including requirements for personal flotation devices and more.  

    Human-powered craft are required to carry on board certain safety equipment, as specified in the Small Vessel Regulations and the Transport Canada Safe Boating Guide.