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Early Season Canoeing In Algonquin Park

Early Season Canoeing in Algonquin Park

Early season canoeing in Algonquin Provincial Park is a great way to put stagnant paddling muscles to use. Ontario’s premier wilderness canoeing destination gets more popular with every passing year. Part of its appeal lies in its proximity to the Toronto – Ottawa corridor. And because it’s huge – 1.5 times the size of Prince Edward Island, there is something for every type of paddler – from easy to access lakes with busy campsites to challenging paddling and solitude.

There is literally a lifetime of canoeing in Algonquin Park and exploring to do. Over 2,400 lakes and 1,200 km (745 mi) of rivers are linked through 2,000 km (1,243 mi) of canoe routes. But the park isn’t just about the lakes.

Algonquin Provincial Park boasts one of the largest stretches of continuous forest in the southern part of Ontario. It’s a magnificent spot in the fall when the maple trees are ablaze with colour. The park is almost as pretty in spring, with the fresh growth in a palette of greens, a feast for colour deprived, winter eyes.

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What canoe route should you choose?

The biggest challenge is in picking a canoe route to suit your skill level. Nearly 2,000 backcountry campsites are at your disposal via 29 designated access points around the periphery of the park, with the more developed section of park accessed along Highway 60.

Before you go consider buying a couple of books that would help you with route selection. Both are written by Kevin Callan – a long time Ontario canoeist. The first – A Paddler’s Guide to Algonquin Park will make planning easier; the second The Top 60 Canoe Routes of Ontario will give you plenty to dream about. Another recommended read is Canoeing Algonquin Park by Donald Lloyd.

For maps I highly suggest a map of the Algonquin Park Canoe Routes.

Canoeing in Algonquin  Park on a 3 day spring trip

I only had three days to explore Algonquin Provincial Park on this spring trip but it whetted my appetite for more. Much more – though next time I’ll do it in September when the colours are peaking and there’s nary a bug in sight.

The ice leaves Algonquin Park at different times every year – sometimes as early as mid-April (1981) but it was May 15th in 1972. Lake Opeongo is usually ice free by April 30th and the smaller lakes before that.

I traveled with Wolf Den Expeditions as I didn’t fancy a trip on my own – especially since my canoeing skills were a tad rusty. Over three days we paddled countless kilometres – I’m guessing around 30, did 16 portages and lifted bags in and out of the canoe so many times that my arms and back are talking to me today.

Our canoeing route went like this

Day one – Smoke Lake – 240 m portage – Ragged Lake – 590 m portage – Big Porcupine Lake – camp

Day two – Big Porcupine Lake – 200 m portage – Bonnechere Lake – 175 m portage – Phipps Lake – 60 m portage – Kirkwood Lake – 715 m portage – Laurence Lake – Pardee Lake – 145 m portage – Harness Lake -1035 m portage to Head Lake – camp

Day three – Head Lake – 1640 m portage – Cache Lake – Tanamakoon Lake – 120 m portage – Sherif Pond – 320 m portage – Little Island Lake  – 220 m portage – kKootchie Lake – 830 m portage to Smoke Lake – back to car

Here are the highlights of my three day canoe trip in Algonquin Provincial Park – starting and ending on Smoke Lake.

Getting organized to launch on Smoke Lake
Getting organized to launch on Smoke Lake
Canoeing in Algonquin Park - heading down Smoke Lake - with the wind at our back
The start of the trip – heading down Smoke Lake – with the wind at our back
Canoeing in Algonquin Park with a portage stop at Ragged Lake
The portage stop at Ragged Lake
Lots of portages equals lots of loading and unloading of the canoe
Lots of portages equals lots of loading and unloading of the canoe
It's a rare day that you can get this close to a loon
It’s a rare day that you can get this close to a loon
My favourite bird call is the call of the loon
My favourite bird call is the call of the loon
Canoeing in Algonquin Park through the Canadian Shield landscape - lots of granite and white pine
Canoeing in Algonquin Park through the Canadian Shield landscape – lots of granite and white pine
Canoeing in Algonquin Park and the water really is this blue
The water really is this blue
Waving to a passing canoeist
Waving to a passing canoeist
A beautiful lunch spot on our second day out
A beautiful lunch spot on our second day out
One of our pretty campsites
One of our pretty campsites
Campfires for warmth, ambiance & to keep the bugs away
Campfires for warmth, ambiance & to keep the bugs away
Calm waters and a beautiful sunset
Calm waters and a beautiful sunset
Canoeing in Algonquin Park means you can enjoy morning mist on the lake
Morning mist on the lake
Enjoying breakfast by the lake
Enjoying breakfast by the lake
Morning reflection right outside my tent door
Morning reflection right outside my tent door
Canoeing in Algonquin Park with well-signed portages
Portages are well-signed
A new family of Canada geese
A new family of Canada geese
Jeff organizing a boat lunch - to avoid the black flies
Jeff organizing a boat lunch – to avoid the black flies

Beat the bugs in Algonquin Provincial Park

An early season canoe trip in Algonquin Park – before June when the bugs appear in full force – is really a wonderful outing. There’s more colour in the woods than I thought possible – lime greens, red, brown and even some yellows with all the fresh growth.

You feel like you have the park to yourself – unless you run into a school group. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. And with luck you’ll see some wildlife. Our count for the weekend was three moose, three turtles and a huge variety of bird life. Every night we fell asleep to the call of a loon and what could be better than that?

Further reading on things to do in Ontario

Click on a photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

An early season canoe trip in Algonquin Park

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 38 Comments
  1. Looks beautiful! I keep hearing how beautiful the lakes are in Ontario, but have yet to experience them. My canoe skills are VERY rusty, so I would prefer to do a tour as well.

  2. A few years ago I did a May trip in Algonquin – we put in on Windigo Lake and paddled through Allan Lake and North Depot Lake to Clamshell Lake for a couple of days and returned the way we came – it was a great trip !

  3. Beauty of Canada’s wilderness never fail to amuse me. The place looks so amazing. Lunch in the middle of the lake sounds like fun. Beautiful photos, Leigh!

  4. oh wow! I have always thought a canoe trip in this part of the world would be amazing – so thank you for taking us along through Travel Photo Thursday. Your image of the mist on the early morning lake is supurb!
    Have a wonderful week.

  5. Hello! I’ve never been to Canada but the images of it in my mind are these sorts of scenes. But less gorgeous, I didn’t know the colours could be so bright and bold. Just stunning. The misty morning shots are just glorious. Thanks for taking me there.

  6. I have an old cabin that my grandfather built 100 years ago. It’s on a small island in a lake, so we have to row (or paddle) to get there. The landscape looks just like this.

  7. Wow! That looks like a beautiful and relaxing (when you weren’t paddling) experience! I’ve always wanted to go on a canoe trip- thanks for taking me along virtually.

  8. Hi Leigh, what a spectacular canoe trip. The blueness of the water and the reflections look magical. It also looks so tranquil. I haven’t been on a canoe trip. Thanks for taking me along.

  9. As I looked through your photos I kept on finding what I thought was my favourite. Without looking back to confirm the ones that have stayed with me are the “Tent with a View” “The Campfire” the first “Mist on the Lake”(I had to look at that for a while) and of course the Canadian Geese family (you have to love that one). What a wholesome experience.

  10. I love so many of your photos — the first one where I felt I was in the canoe, the bright green foliage of the portage, and the mist floating on the water’s surface. The water is so blue, too. Looks like a great expedition.

    1. @Michele It was a hard weekend but one I really enjoyed for the beauty and the exercise. When I saw the mist on the lake on the second weekend I rushed to get my camera. I was also fortunate to have three sunny days – even though one night was really cold.

  11. Canoe trip in Algonquin Park is quite an amazing experience and one can surely say that Algonquin Park is the best place for adventure as well as extreme sports activities. Apart from adventure activities a stay in Algonquin Park pine cabin leads you to watch beautiful wild animals, birds, reptiles and abundant natural beauty. Last summer I visited this park and stay was worth memorable for a life time.

  12. Wow, these photos are incredible. You’ve managed to capture the vibrant colours and atmosphere perfectly. Thanks for sharing, you reminded me I need to get back in a canoe soon!

  13. Leigh, this makes me want to go back to T.O. and drive right up to cottage country! I enjoyed canoeing at camp but not sure that I wouldn’t tip over now! Would love to be out there with my camera — your shots are beautiful. And you’re right about avoiding the black flies, they are nasty!

    1. @Wendy The weekend I went was the one after the May long weekend. The blackflies were just coming out and really weren’t a problem. I suspect you’d get the bulk of the park to yourself in June because although beautiful, it would be a daily battle with the bugs.

  14. It all looks good, Leigh, but I especially like the lake with canoes shots and the smooth glassy looking water.

    1. @Andrew We lucked out for a May long weekend as most of the time the lakes weren’t rough. Mornings and evenings were totally gorgeous, especially with mist rising off the lake.

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