Viewing Moose, Deer, Bear and other Wildlife in Ontario Parks

It can be difficult to see wildlife in its natural habitat in the Ontario Parks System. It just happens when it happens. A few years ago, we were camping in Algonquin Provincial Park when a moose ran by our campsite around lunchtime. It was not the typical place or time of day to see a moose, but we had one of our closest views of a moose. After the moose left, we followed his tracks along the campground road but then lost the trail when he went back into the forest. Another time, while backcountry camping at Killarney Provincial Park, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. one morning to find three moose in our campsite. They quickly fled as soon as they heard me unzip the tent. If you want to spend a day viewing wildlife, here are some of the tricks that we have learned:

Dawn and dusk: The early hours in the morning after daybreak and the evening before dark tend to be the best times to see birds and mammals. It is well known that moose like to lick the salt that gets thrown on the roads to melt winter ice. The ice melts and washes the salt into the roadside ditches. The moose can be spotted along roadsides in the early mornings and evenings in May and June in some parts of Ontario. On one camping trip, I counted twelve moose, just by driving up and down Highway 60 in Algonquin Provincial Park for about one half hour in the morning and one half hour in the evening. Remember to drive slowly and be alert so that you do not accidentally collide with a moose. If you see wildlife while driving, always pull off to the shoulder and stop, so that you do not create a dangerous situation for other drivers on the road. Another great way to spot wildlife is by canoe at dawn and dusk.

Word of Mouth: Talk to others about places where they have seen wildlife. For example, the Mizzy Lake Trail in Algonquin Provincial Park is known to be a great trail to spot wildlife. Knowing this, I hiked the trail once and saw moose drinking water in a pond near the trail.

Low, Flat, Wet Areas: Areas that are low, flat, and wet are the best areas to spot wildlife, especially if there aren’t a lot of tall trees. Areas with bogs, meadows, and ponds all come to mind. One day last summer we were biking through the old airfield, which is situated between Mew Lake and Lake of Two Rivers in Algonquin Park. The highlight of the bike ride was seeing this friendly little bear wandering through the area.

I have found that the best wildlife viewing is in the larger parks, which offer more space for the animals. I have seen more deer, moose, beaver, fox, birds, and so on in Algonquin and Killarney provincial parks than in any other parks where I have camped. Another great park for seeing deer is Restoule Provincial Park. Last summer I spotted several deer at Restoule, just by walking along hiking trails and roadsides during the day. Do not forget your binoculars and camera!

Have you found any great places to view mammals and birds during your travels across Ontario? Please forward your comments and we will publish them for all to see. Thank you!

Resources: For camping information and tips, see: The Camp Tripper. For camping gear, see:

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Provisioning for a Day Trip by Canoe

Are you planning a day trip by canoe this year and aren’t sure of what to pack? I’ve done hundreds of day trips by canoe and some by kayak over the years and here are the items that I find are the most of important to pack for your trip:

Clothing: Layer your clothing to regulate body temperature, with more layers during the colder months of the year. Jeans and tops that are made out of cotton are difficult to dry when wet, so choose other fabrics. Consider the following clothing:

    • Fleece or wool sweater
    • Hat
    • Shorts or pants
    • Thermal underwear, gloves, and warm hat during the colder months
    • Windproof jacket or coat

Footwear: Sandals, crocs, or sneakers in the summer; hiking shoes or boots are the best for cooler months or when you will be carrying the canoe and gear on portages.

Gear: Canoe, paddles, life jackets, bailer, rope, and whistle: This is provided when you rent canoes or kayaks in Ontario Parks’ campgrounds.

Map: Always take a map, as it will allow you to plan your trip, track your progress, and estimate your return time. Consider a compass or GPS device as well. If navigating with a compass or GPS, ensure that you know how to use it.

Water and Food: At least one full bottle of water per person. The quantity of food should be appropriate for the trip. If the trip is four hours or more, pack a lunch; otherwise, snacks will do for shorter trips. Suggested food: fruit, vegetables, sandwiches, crackers, granola bars, and nut mix

Other Essentials: binoculars, bug repellent, camera, first aid kit, sunglasses, sunscreen, toilet paper and a whistle to signal others if you are in distress.

Do you have any suggested items that you bring for day trips by canoe or kayak that you want to share with all of us? Please forward your comments and we will publish them for all to see. Thank you!

Resources: For camping information and tips, see: The Camp Tripper. For camping gear, see:

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Safety Tips for Canoeing and Kayaking in Ontario Parks

I’ve rented canoes and kayaks throughout Ontario, at Ontario Parks’ campgrounds. I’ve also had my own canoe for many years. Here are some safety tips that may be useful to those of you who are new to canoeing or kayaking and are planning on exploring the waters this summer:

Backcountry: If canoeing or kayaking and camping in the backcountry, let the park staff know your route. Also ask the park staff about animals in the area and know what to do if you encounter them.

Be Responsible: Statistics indicate that most canoeists who drown are young to middle-aged males who were not very skilled at canoeing, were not wearing life jackets, and were poor swimmers. Paddle near the shoreline if you are worried about tipping the canoe, and instruct everyone to sit in the middle of the canoe at all times. Keep your footing and weight in the middle when stepping in or out of the canoe.

Buddy System: Avoid canoeing or kayaking alone.

Calm Waters: Ontario lakes and rivers tend to be the calmest in the early morning or early evening, based on my experience. These are the most enjoyable times for paddling.

Children: Watch young children closely to ensure that they do not tip the canoe. Children will be tempted to lean over the side of the canoe and drag their hands in the water to cool them or grab water lilies and other floating vegetation and debris. Instruct them not to do this, as this can make the canoe tipsy. When our children were younger, we instructed them to always sit in the middle of the canoe to maintain balance. Do not take any children canoeing who are too young to wear a life jacket or have inadequate swimming experience.

Trail Markers: Most backcountry canoe routes have trail markers at the designated portaging points between lakes. Always look for trail markers to help you pinpoint where you need to carry the canoe and gear. The trail markers should tie into the portaging points that are identified on your map. If no markers can be found, then pick landmarks such as inlets or islands along the lake or river that you can easily spot on your map. This will help you to chart your whereabouts on the map.

Word of Mouth: Talk to others you meet along the water routes, as they can usually provide you with significant information on where to see beautiful views, good places to stop for lunch, or whether they encountered difficult or swampy canoeing conditions. They may even be able to help you if you are lost.

Do you have any safety tips for canoeing and kayaking that you want to share with all of us? Please forward your comments and we will publish them for all to see. Thank you!

Resources: For camping information and tips, see: The Camp Tripper. For camping gear, see:

Posted in Backcountry, Book, Camping, Canoe, Children, Kayak, Ontario, Park, Safe, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day Tripping by Canoe in the Ontario Parks System

There are many great lakes and rivers to canoe or kayak on in Ontario. Renting a canoe at one of the Ontario Parks campgrounds will give you the opportunity to explore the waterways. Here are some of my favourite routes for day trips:

Algonquin Provincial Park: Canoes are available for rent and delivery at many lakes, including Canoe, Cannisbay, Mew, Two Rivers, Pog, Rock, and Opeongo. Canoe and Opeongo have outfitter stores onsite, and these lakes connect to many other lakes for backcountry trips. A return trip on Canoe Lake can be paddled in three to four hours. From Canoe Lake, another choice is to paddle to Bonita Lake, Tea Lake, and Smoke Lake for a day trip. If you rent at Two Rivers, you can canoe to the southeast end of the lake and continue to Pog Lake. If you paddle to the southwest end of Two Rivers, you can access the Madawaska River, which leads to some beautiful waterfalls where hikers swim in the summer. If you rent a canoe at Rock Lake, you can circle the lake in three to four hours, and this will allow time to see the cliffs. Another option is to head south from Rock to Pen Lake. Opeongo is a large lake and should only be paddled by experienced canoeists. Mew Lake is a small lake and is the best choice for beginners.

Bon Echo Provincial Park: Mazinaw Rock showcases Bon Echo Provincial Park and is definitely worth exploring by canoe, especially if you want to see the native pictographs. Be careful while paddling! Mazinaw Lake is large and I found that the winds would blow from the west across the lake and make paddling conditions quite challenging. In addition, you will need to watch out for powerboats and the wake that they leave behind as power boating is permitted on Mazinaw Lake.

French River Provincial Park: If you drive 10 minutes north of Grundy Lake Provincial Park along Highway 69, you will see the French River Visitor Centre. Take the next right north of the visitor centre and you will be able to access the French River from a private outfitter that supplies canoes. This section of the French River by Highway 69 is fabulous with high cliffs on both sides of the river. This route is for experienced canoeists as there are many powerboats along this river and there are many places where it is difficult to park the canoe, due to the cliffs along the shoreline.

Grundy Lake Provincial Park: You can canoe on several connecting lakes in the park, including Grundy, Gurd, and Gut. All lakes have beautiful views and offer excellent opportunities for swimming. The lakes are small enough to do a return trip in a day.

Killarney Provincial Park: The lakes in Killarney are among the most beautiful in the province. Although most of the canoeing is more remote and will appeal to backcountry campers, it is possible to do a day trip to see some of the park. The main campground is located at George Lake, and a canoe trip around George Lake is well worth the time. If you have more time available, other beautiful lakes to explore include Killarney, O.S.A., and Norway, which are all accessible from George Lake.

Restoule Provincial Park: Stormy Lake offers a 100-metre cliff on the east end of Stormy Lake and is the centrepiece that showcases the park. You can canoe around Stormy Lake and up to Scott’s Dam on the Restoule River and back. Round trip by canoe is about four to five hours and well worth doing. There are a few nice places to stop for lunch along Stormy Lake and you will definitely want to paddle near the 100-metre cliff for a better view of it.

Have you found any great canoe routes in the Ontario Parks System that you want to share with all of us? Please forward your comments and we will publish them for all to see. Thank you!

Resources: For camping information and tips, see: The Camp Tripper. For camping gear, see:

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Renting Canoes and Kayaks in Ontario Parks Campgrounds

Canoeing or kayaking has to be the ultimate experience when camping by lakes or rivers in Ontario. We have camped at many Ontario provincial parks that are equipped for canoeing and kayaking. Many campers bring their own canoe or kayak. We prefer to rent canoes and kayaks where we camp because it is much more convenient. Once our camping gear is loaded for a trip, we do not have the extra space for a canoe on the roof racks because our capsule is already there, loaded down with camping gear.

Canoes and kayaks are available for rent at many of Ontario’s provincial parks. The parks that offer the most lakes and rivers (and therefore the best canoeing and kayaking options) include Algonquin, Killarney, and French River. These parks also appeal to those who want to do overnight trips into the backcountry. Other parks that offer excellent opportunities for day trips include Arrowhead, Charleston Lake, Grundy Lake, Restoule and Silent Lake. There are many other parks to canoe at. The parks mentioned here are some of our favourites.

The canoes and kayaks that you rent at Ontario Parks campgrounds come equipped with paddles, life jackets, pail, rope, and a whistle. You can research online at the Ontario Parks website to determine which parks rent canoes and kayaks. If not available directly at the campground, there are usually outfitters who drop the equipment off for you and pick it up when you are done. In recent years, we have paid approximately $50 to rent large seventeen-footers for twenty-four hours, which is a very reasonable price. The seventeen-footers can comfortably seat two adults, two children, and gear for a day trip. Most parks that have backcountry canoeing or kayaking also offer maps. Always have a map to help you chart your direction and monitor your progress.

Strategies for Renting Canoes

Lightweight Canoe: A lightweight canoe is essential if you will do any portaging on your trip. Ask for a lightweight canoe, as it will save you the aggravation and frustration of struggling with one of those heavier monstrosities. We rent Kevlar canoes whenever they are available. You will pay a little more but it is worth every penny.

Canoe Length: If you only have two people, fourteen- or fifteen-footers will do. If you are canoeing with a family of four, request a seventeen-foot canoe.

Paddles: If you are renting one canoe for your family, ask for two adult-sized paddles as well as a smaller one for your children to share when they have their turn at paddling. Always rent three paddles per canoe, in case one paddle breaks on the canoe trip.

Three Seats: Rent canoes with three seats if you have three paddlers. This way, everyone can paddle in comfort. Canoes with three seats are available at most Ontario Parks where I have camped.

Resources: For camping information and tips, see: The Camp Tripper. For camping gear, see:

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Getting a Good Night’s Sleep While Camping

Getting a good night’s sleep while camping is extremely important. Otherwise, how can you be rested enough to enjoy your camping trip?

Light Sleepers

If you are a light sleeper like me, then you can lose a few nights of sleeping while camping. Why? You could be woken up by the sound of rain splattering on your tent, strong winds, birds chirping in the early morning, cars traveling on nearby roads, or noisy campers who do not respect quiet time during the night. As a light sleeper, here is what I have done over the years to help ensure that I get a good night’s sleep on my camping trips:

Campsite: Select a campsite that is on less heavily traveled campsite roads and away from the main highway that connects to the campground. Pay extra for a premium campsite that is larger or spaced farther apart from other campsites. Do not select a campsite that is located beside toilets, showers, and other busy areas. Finally, book a “radio-free” campsite (if available at your campground), as excessive noise is not permitted at these campsites.

Earplugs: Earplugs can eliminate about 80 percent of the noise that will keep you awake at night. When I have my earplugs on, I barely hear the rain, wind, birds, cars, or people.

Hook-ups: If you are camping with a tent, do not select a campsite in the section of the campground that has electrical hook-ups. The noise from neighbouring campers with air conditioners or heaters running all night may keep you up.

Noisy Neighbours: If asking noisy neighbours to keep the noise down does not work, check at the campground office to see what other options are available. Usually there is a local number to call for the park warden or police. This is the best solution for avoiding a confrontation with noisy neighbours. Over the years, I have seen the police make noisy campers leave their campsites on several occasions.

Sleeping in Cold Weather

Foam Pad: Always use a thick foam pad under your sleeping bag. Using an air mattress for cold weather camping is one of the biggest mistakes that campers make. An air mattress will provide virtually no insulation from the cold air beneath you. If you must use an air mattress for cold weather camping, place a foam mat on top of it to insulate you from the cold.

Sleeping Bag: Ensure that your sleeping bag is rated to handle the coldest nights on your camping trip. This means that it should be at least a three-season sleeping bag. If you have any old sleeping bags, use them as blankets to throw on top of your new sleeping bags on the colder nights. We have zipped together one side of two sleeping bags to create a giant quilt, which is large enough to cover four sleeping bags.

Hat and Socks: Since we lose most of our body heat through our head and feet, try wearing a wool hat and socks to bed.

Don’t Wear too many Layers: You should only have one layer on your body: pajamas, a wool hat, and socks. If you wear more layers, then you will sweat and impede your body’s ability to heat up the sleeping bag.

Resources: For camping information and tips, see: The Camp Tripper. For camping gear, see:

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Camping During Thunderstorms and other Severe Weather Conditions

I have camped through many thunderstorms over the years, and the same question always comes up: What do you do when there is a bad thunderstorm with lightning, heavy winds, or hail? Do you stay in the tent, go to the car, or go somewhere else? Not being sure what to do, I’ve done all of them. You should always take appropriate shelter if the weather conditions look dangerous.

Lightning: With lightning, you want to avoid high points (including tall trees or high ridges), metal, water, branches, and other debris that could fall and hit you. Consider the “30-30” Lightning Rule: When there is less than thirty seconds between the sound of thunder and the sight of lightning, you should find shelter. You should also wait in the sheltered area until thirty minutes past the last thunder.

Shelter: Move to a comfort station or your hard-topped vehicle if you are in a tent or tent trailer. If you go to your hard-topped vehicle for protection, do not touch any metal parts inside it if there is lightning.

Backcountry Camping: If camping in the backcountry, move to a low-lying area, crouch down, cover your head, and avoid being near the tallest objects such as isolated trees. Remove all metal objects from your pockets and do not lie flat on the ground, as this will make you a larger target.

Tent: If your tent is under trees that may fall on it, then wait outside in the storm in a spot that looks safe from falling debris.

Other Severe Weather: You should also look for shelter immediately if there is large hail. If there is heavy rain or flash flooding, stay away from streams and rivers. If a twister or tornado hits, go to the campground comfort station if possible. Strong winds may be capable of overturning your vehicle.

Weatheradio Canada: You should always have access to a radio to listen to the local weather channel. Usually, you can get a heads-up warning two to six hours before a major storm strikes and possibly drive away before the storm hits. Weatheradio Canada is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting weather and environmental information twenty-four hours a day for this purpose. Tune in whenever you can to ensure that you are prepared for any storms.

The best thing to do with thunderstorms and other severe weather is stay calm and go with your gut feeling, and usually you will do the right thing.

Resources: For camping information and tips, see: The Camp Tripper. For camping gear, see:

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