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November 2014 Council Courier Article: A Perfect Day for Paddling

By Steve Johnson, Recreation Committee Chairperson

If you want to hear a great blues song, "I'm Going Down to the River" by Ray Charles, is the one. It reminds me of an activity sponsored by the Council’s Recreation Committee this past August of 2014.

The paddling event, which we hope will be the first of many more recreational events, was a canoe trip down the Namekagon River in Trego, Wisconsin. Although the Ojibwa name for Namekagon means “River at the place abundant with Sturgeons,” our trip didn’t involve fishing, but it was abundant with blind and visually impaired individuals who reconnected with old friends and made a few new ones.

Eleven blind or visually impaired participants were matched up with individual volunteers. Also along for the ride were three guide dogs who decided it was time to kick back their paws for a few hours and let their masters do the work for a change!

When we got onto the water by mid-afternoon, all was literally perfect. The sun was shining. The temperature was about 90 degrees. The water was crystal clear and cool enough to keep the bottom of the canoe nice and comfortable for our feet and for our furry friends. At the deepest, the water was about shoulder height.

As the river twisted and turned, we realized that our sighted volunteers would serve as our navigation system. They saw to it that we paddled safely around the boulders and the many folks who were inner tubing the same waters and filling the air with their laughter. We slowly and quietly made our way back to the home base—all in about two and one-half hours and best of all, without any major incidents! One team overturned their canoe, but they had no problem in up-righting again. Only one unnamed guide dog, belonging to this writer, decided when the canoe came close to shore at one point, that it was time to speed up the process on his own. The worst that came out of it was one wet, doggy-smelling Labrador!

After the canoe trip, we headed back to Rice Lake for dinner at an Italian restaurant. We all agreed that this was a very successful event in many ways, including the conversation, socializing and sharing that filled the rest of the evening.

The goal of the Council’s Recreation Committee is to provide opportunities for our peers to engage in interactive events around the state. If you are interested in what this committee does, please contact the Council at 1-800-783-5213 or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you or someone you know might be interested in sponsoring a recreation event for people who have vision loss, the Council would love to hear from you.