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!