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.