After a delectable and nourishing vegetarian omelette at the Two Roses Bed and Breakfast in St. George, Ontario, we were ready to start our third and final day of our Brantford-area getaway. Melissa Stephens, our local tourism expert, picked us up and drove us to the quaint and historic town of Paris where we were about to embark on our Grand River adventure.
A brilliant October morning in Paris, Ontario
She introduced us to Jamie Kent, owner of Grand Experiences, an award-winning outdoor adventure company. After a successful management career in the paint and chemicals industry, Jamie started his company about 10 years ago with the full support of his family. Today Grand Experiences has customers from all over the world, including Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa.
Jamie Kent from Grand Experiences
After watching a safety video I took a walk through the store with Jamie and learned about all the different outdoor adventures that Grand Experiences offers. Adventures on the river include rafting, canoeing and kayaking. Due to its 20 feet per mile elevation drop, the nearby Nith River even offers some challenging white-water experiences with its class 2 and 3 rapids. Guests can choose fully outfitted multi-day trips with expert guides or they can simply rent a kayak for the afternoon with the comfort of lessons and a shuttle service.
All sorts of outdoor gear at Grand Experiences
Aboriginal travel experiences are a specialty at Grand Experiences, where curious adventurers can travel down the Grand River with a guide in a war canoe for 12 people. Travel groups can stay overnight on an island and enjoy native story-telling around a campfire. For those who prefer to stay on land, Jamie’s company also offers guided hikes, mountain biking and fishing as well as snow-shoeing in the winter.
Getting ready for our boat trip down the Grand River
Corporate team building events, customized programs such as training in the “True Colors” personality temperament theory, as well as special programs for school groups and even patients of mental hospitals, round out the offerings available at Jamie Kent’s company. With its commitment to safety and customer service, Grand Experiences is a premier outdoor adventure company that has won many local tourism awards.
All sorts of canoes and kayaks await adventurous visitors
We started our Grand River tour in the historic town of Paris, which was first settled in 1829 and officially became incorporated as a town in 1850. The name of the town stems from “plaster of Paris”, referring to the once plentiful gypsum deposits that were mined here in the first half of the 19th century.
The Victorian architecture of Paris, viewed from the Grand River
Jamie explained that the town is particularly well-known for its Victorian cobblestone architecture which is highlighted by several unique historic buildings that are constructed from small rounded river stones. On August 10, 1876, Paris became famous as the site of the first “long-distance” telephone call, made by the father of Alexander Graham Bell, from downtown Brantford. During the late Victorian era Paris became an industrial powerhouse due to the numerous textile manufacturing plants. In the early 1900s, Paris was the largest textile manufacturing centre in the British Empire. Many of the remaining buildings from this era have today been converted into lofts and condominiums.
Impressive architecture in Paris, Ontario
Our river guide turned out to be an expert on the fauna and the flora of the Grand River area. As the largest river in Southwestern Ontario, the Grand has particular ecological significance as a spawning ground for many different types of cold water and warm water fish. Anglers enjoy plentiful stocks of walleye, pike, brown trout and rainbow trout, as well as small mouth and large mouth bass. In all about 80 species of fish call the Grand River home, and the section surrounding Paris has been designated “exceptional waters” due to its role as a spawning ground. Special fishing regulations apply here: anglers must abide by the catch-and-release rules.
The Grand River – a special habitat for many plant and animal species
Blessed with a milder climate than the rest of Canada, Southwestern Ontario also is an environment for unique plant life. Jamie explained that the area features some of the last vestiges of the Carolinian forest, a mostly deciduous forest area that stretches from as far south as the Carolinas to southwestern Ontario. Southern tree species such as Kentucky coffee, sassafras, tulip trees, black willows and sycamore trees that cannot be found elsewhere in Canada grow in this area and support a wide range of mammals and birds.
Nature lovers enjoy coming to the Grand River