The Founding Generation
Hermann and Christa Kerckhoff had the incredible foresight to start both the Madawaska Kanu Centre in Barry’s Bay – Canada’s first whitewater school for kayaks and canoes in 1972, as well as OWL Rafting on the Ottawa River in 1981. They immigrated in the late ’50’s to Canada from Northern Germany. I heard stories of my father and his sister paddling the whole length of the Rhine River in their teens. But, it wasn’t until arriving in Canada, that they joined a kayaking river trip with the Ontario Voyageurs Kayak Club (OVKC).
It was competing on the Rouge River in Quebec in 1969 that sparked the dream of starting a whitewater paddling school. Both Christa, and Hermann had just won the Canadian Championships, and they felt they should do something with this title. The idea of getting more people into the sport through creating a paddling school immerged. Little did they know, that Madawaska Kanu Centre would become the first whitewater paddling school in the World, three years later.
The middle section of the Madawaska River was the chosen spot for building their dream as the water would be guaranteed with daily releases from Bark Lake Dam. Who would have known that forty years later, the same programs started in 1972 continue to draw paddlers from around the world for high quality, personal instruction – making MKC the first commercial paddling school in the world.