Lake Erie Challenge 2020

(Left to right) Rebecca, Jennifer, Mairi and Shona after their swim for the Lake Erie Challenge on August 22, 2020. 

Essex County, ON - Saturday’s sunshine and calm winds made for ideal conditions for the Lake Erie Challenge this year. Working in teams, seven athletes swam and paddled the 50 km distance from Amherstburg to Leamington in under six hours!

Dr. Dennis Higgs (above), Mairi MacGregor and Jennifer Agnew of Team Swim were the first in the water, starting their day at sunrise at Colchester Beach. Higgs, a biology professor at the University of Windsor, set a new personal best, swimming 14 km to Cedar Beach, further than any of his previous swims.

“My experience on the water today was exhilarating,” said Higgs. “The most uplifting part was seeing how nice the shoreline is. I could watch the birds fly by.”

“The last hour was tough. Dennis kept asking if we were there yet. He was ready to be done,” added Kirsten Poling, Higgs’ support kayaker.

Some of the students working with Dr. Higgs were there to cheer on their professor at the finish line, surprising him as he got out of the water.

“They’ve been worried, they didn’t think I’d make it,” Higgs laughed. 


Swimmers Mairi and Jennifer tackled a distance of 6 kilometres, starting from a private location and ending at Cedar Beach Conservation Area in just under two hours. 


Stand-up paddle-boarders Rachelle Cardinal and Frank Torres completed a distance of 20km from the mouth of the Detroit River to Colchester Beach, while Don Barrie and Rose Sirois kayaked from Cedar Beach to Seacliff Beach in Leamington. 

“I was surprised to not see any other paddlers out,” said Barrie. “Lake Erie really is stunning, and by the quiet dip of a paddle is a great way to experience it.”

“We did see a lot of plastic bags covering one section of shoreline though,” Barrie added.

“They were all over the place, hanging off the trees even. We need to do a better job of looking after our amazing Great Lakes.”


A surprise athlete, Brad Petrus, was so inspired by the Lake Erie challenge he decided to complete his own 50 km challenge on Saturday in the East end of the Lake. With his father-in-law at his side as support crew, Brad completed a 50-kilometre journey by paddleboard, travelling from Crystal Beach up into the Niagara River. 

Brad wasn't able to meet our crew on the West end of the lake, but we hope he will formally join the Lake Erie Challenge Team next year!

The 2020 Athletes 



Donate to the Lake Erie Challenge

The Lake Erie Challenge isn’t just about raising awareness of what Lake Erie needs—it’s a celebration of what Lake Erie has! That includes vibrant shoreline communities that appreciate and love the lake for all of its natural splendour and beauty. 

Help us ensure that local governments uphold their commitments to reduce toxic algal blooms; advance community-level best practices on pollution prevention; and deepen environmental stewardship across area businesses, municipalities and households… all while building a stronger, more unified freshwater community. Donate today.

A special shoutout to all the volunteers and partners that helped make this event possible! Without the safety crews on seadoos, in kayaks and people behind the camera, this year’s event would not have been possible!