New local business brings boat rentals back to Lake Guelph

A new boat rental business was due to launch in the Lake Guelph Conservation Area in early May, but pandemic restrictions delayed the opening.

And yet, without the pandemic, the new business might not open at all.

“It definitely grew out of the pandemic,” says Curtis James, co-owner of Guelph Outdoor Adventures.

The Grand River Conservation Authority, which operates Lake Guelph Park, did not handle boat rentals last year due to pressures associated with COVID-19, but this year the organization sought an outside supplier to provide the service.

“They were looking for a third party and we came at the right time,” says James.

For boat rentals on Lake Guelph, Guelph Outdoor Adventures partners with Grand River Rafting, a Paris, Ontario-based company that organizes various paddling experiences on the Grand River.

Grand River Rafting already had a relationship with the conservation authority, offering canoe, kayak and stand-up paddle board (SUP) rentals in the GRCA’s Brant Conservation Area, so it made sense to team up with the company to offer a similar business at Lake Guelph, says James.

“We have a fleet of around 45 boats,” he says, adding, “we could bring in more boats if we have more demand.”

These boats include canoes, kayaks, SUPs, tandem kayaks and “yaks” – described by James as a two-person inflatable kayak.

There’s also a craft that James calls “the beast,” which is an eight-person paddle board.

“They’re very popular because a whole family can hang out together,” he says.

There will be two of these “beasts” available for hourly rental when the business starts up in Guelph Lake. Other boats will be available for hire by the hour or day, with rentals on a first-come, first-served basis from Lake Guelph’s main beach in the conservation area.

James had hoped to be able to open the business in early May, believing it would be permitted under provincial pandemic restrictions as an outdoor recreational activity where physical distancing could be maintained.

“Most of our boats, it’s one person per boat,” he said.

But the conservation authority decided to err on the side of caution.

The GRCA has asked the business not to open until the province moves into Stage 1 of its three-phase reopening plan, GRCA Strategic Communications Supervisor Cam Linwood said in a statement. email to the Mercury Tribune.

“This decision was made in support of provincial and local public health guidelines focused on reducing the spread of COVID-19,” Linwood said.

Ontario was due to enter Stage 1 by June 14, but there are reports that that date could be earlier, based on advice from the province’s chief medical officer of health.

Lake Guelph and other GRCA parks opened earlier this year, but with capacity limits and with concessions and some activities unavailable due to the pandemic.

The earlier opening was touted by the conservation authority as an effort to support people’s mental health and wellbeing by giving them more opportunities to get outside.

That’s exactly what James said he hoped to do with the boat rental business.

He noted the mental health importance of exercise and even simple opportunities to get out of the house and enjoy nature.

“It’s a good space for a healthy mindset,” he said. “People need to start having fun now.”

For updates on the opening of business, visit

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