Old Voyageur Channel Loop

Total Distance: 68 km

Duration:  5 days (though it could be done in 3)

Number of Portages: 2 (more if water levels are low)

Total Portage Distance: 340 m 

Level of Difficulty: Novice (Wind on Georgian Bay can make that section difficult) 

Maps provided courtesy of Toporama which contains information licensed under the Open Government Licence – Canada. I have marked my route in blue and portages in red. 

Every year in late September, I meet a group of like-minded fellows for a weekend of "Dads Only!" camping in the Kawartha Highlands. On a wet evening on Cox Lake in 2019, under a tarp next to the campfire, I tried to convince the boys to join me the following summer for a slightly longer trip down the French River's Old Voyageur Channel to Georgian Bay. My thinking was that it would be aesthetically beautiful, have almost no portaging, and be very cool to do a route steeped in Canadian history. (It was designated as a Canadian Heritage River in 1986.) A number of the fellows were keen to give it a go. 


Well, Covid-19 hit us in the early spring and everyone was living on tenterhooks, waiting to see how the pandemic would unfold. It was difficult to make plans. By early July in 2020, people were starting to get out and about and it seemed that everyone and their aunts were heading into the woods to camp. After all, since most organized sports and activities involving groups of people were still on hold, what better way to ride out a pandemic than backcountry camping?


So, from the Dad's weekend crew, my friend, Shawn and his two boys, Liam and Declan said they were on board for the trip. Knowing this, I convinced my two girls, Tanya and Erin to join in since they are the same age as Shawn's boys and attend the same school. My sister, Maggie, after hearing about all of my canoeing adventures, said that she wanted to tag along for her first backcountry trip. My dad, Paul, said he would love to join the group, as well. Now we would have a flotilla of eight people in four canoes paddling the French River delta! 


Planning around work schedules, we decided to give it a go over the civic holiday long weekend in early August. As there is no booking of specific sites on the French River, we were quite concerned about available campsites over a long weekend, especially during the pandemic when everyone seemed to be in the backcountry. So, we thought if we started the trip on the Thursday, we'd beat the Friday crowds for sites. This line of thinking worked for us on the first two nights, but it came back to bite us in the tooshies on our way back upriver on Day 3. More on that, later. 


Day 1 - Hartley Bay Marina to Crombie Bay

On departure day, it was quite a load heading north. Shawn and his boys were in their van with their canoe and gear, and I had everyone else in my vehicle along with three canoes! The day before, I had quickly built a canoe rack for my trailer to make it all work. It was a cozy ride.  

We pulled into Hartley Bay Marina, our launching point, shortly after 1 pm. The weather was partly cloudy but hot. After paying the small fortune in parking (two cars and a trailer) and "canoe launching" fees, we drove down to the docks, unloaded and were escorted to the parking location by a fellow in a dune buggy-like vehicle. He drove us back to the docks in this contraption and we put in.  


We made our way up the Hartley Bay Channel, past the cottages and the motorboats, and into Wanapitei Bay. A few canoe trippers were darting to and fro on this lake, as well as the usual number of motorized boats whipping by. A group of MNR rangers passed us in an aluminum fishing boat and waved as we moved southwest past an island in the centre of the bay. By the time we came to the confluence of the Western Channel and the Eastern Outlet, we were ready for a swim. We found a nice sloping rock on the western shore next to site 617 and spent a half-hour there jumping into the deep water and enjoying some snacks. Feeling refreshed, we began paddling down the Western Channel.  

Moving west and paddling toward McCullam's Narrows to the south of Pig Island, we passed the Atwood Island Lodge and several cottages. As we approached Crombie Bay, we drifted past some massive cliffs on the eastern shore and the river began to have more of a wilderness feel as the private properties disappeared. We began looking for a site to call home for the evening and investigated sites 700 and 701. Though they were vacant, we opted to press on as they were a bit bushy and had slightly swampy waterfronts. Sites 702, 703 and 704 were occupied. We rounded the bend as the river moved south again and the wind began to kick up a bit. It had been a long day and we were now ready to set up camp, eat dinner and relax. Site 705 was vacant and on an open bluff, but upon investigation, it didn't have enough spots to accommodate all of the tents our group had. 


Luckily, the next site downriver, 732, on the north side of an island, was available and large enough. In addition to my hammock, we had 5 tents that required space on each site. We found this to be a big issue for the remainder of the trip. The topography of the French River is stunningly beautiful but rugged and rocky. Despite paying fees as much as one would pay in maintained parks like Algonquin or Killarney, we found the sites on the French River to be the same as crown land camping. There weren't a lot of cleared spaces for tent pads and this site, for example, did not have a thunderbox. Much to our chagrin, we discovered that the previous occupants did not bury their "treasure". 


We made the best of it, however, despite the hordes of ankle-biting deer flies, and enjoyed the first night of our trip with freshly cooked meat, beverages and good company. Liam, Shawn's 17-year old, had pulled an all-nighter work shift the night before and crawled into his tent, not to be heard from again until the next morning. He did well with the 5-hour drive and 15km paddle, considering. We did need to check on him once or twice to make sure he was still alive though! 

Maggie was experiencing her first night of backcountry canoe camping and loving the views and wonderful feeling that one can only get in the Ontario wilderness.   

Day 2 - Crombie Bay to Georgian Bay

In normal, dad-like fashion, I got up early. I seemed to be the only one awake, so I decided to hop in the canoe and try my hand at pulling in a walleye. I fished for about an hour in the narrow western channel to the west and south of the island we were camping on. I got a couple of bass hits, but no luck in the walleye department. 


Returning to camp, the gang was waking up and getting their breakfast going. Getting a group of 8 people, including four teenagers, up and on the water early is an exercise in futility -- but then again I had anticipated this fact and allowed for an extra day of travelling when planning the trip. As a result, we weren't in any kind of hurry and enjoyed a relaxing coffee and breakfast to start the day. 


We got on the move by mid-morning and continued our journey southwest toward The Five Fingers -- a series of outlets that the Western Channel separates into before emptying into the Cross Channel, and eventually Georgian Bay. The sun was shining; it wasn't very windy, and the scenery was amazing. It was a fantastic day to be on the water. 


We puttered along the western shore, gawking at the pretty, sloping rocks and casting lines in the weedy areas in the hopes of catching the attention of a monster pike. The eastern shore was dominated by large cliffs and rock faces. 

Before reaching the Five Fingers, the channel widened dramatically at an area called Robinson's Bay. We stayed close to the western shore, not wanting to take the wrong "finger" inadvertently. We were aiming for the Old Voyageur Channel and I had read that it could be a little tricky to identify and locate. 


We chose this route because it was the easiest way to reach Georgian Bay. The voyageurs, who had learned this from the Ojibwa, knew this and used this route year after year in the fur trade. Between the Western Channel and the Cross Channel, there was only one set of rapids, Petite Faucille Rapids, that required a canoeist to get out of their canoe. In the other fingers, there were more formidable obstacles. The Old Voyageur route was also amazingly scenic. Ettiene Brule and Samuel de Champlain explored the French River in the early 1600s, but unlike the voyageurs to follow them, most likely reached Georgian Bay through the Main Channel. 


To begin, we simply took the second channel from the right. Knowing it split again, we identified the entrance to the Old Voyageur route by finding a narrow passage next to a cliff on the right. Going left would take you over Boston Falls, so we were careful to find the correct channel! There, the water picked up its pace a bit and we ran a short swift by keeping to the extreme left of the river and then cross ferrying to the right to avoid a rock garden. The water was high enough that we had no issues whatsoever with scraping our canoes on rocks. After that, the river widened into a large pool and was like glass. We were lucky to witness a bald eagle launch from its treetop perch and fly away upon seeing us. 

We soon arrived at Petite Faucille Rapids. Even though it could be lined easily, travelling in a large group, we chose to do the short 10-meter lift-over that traverses the large rock to the left of the chute.  

Below the rapids, the channel was very beautiful. It got very narrow and we passed through a corridor with a huge rock face on the right. It felt like we were paddling through a canyon.  

After this, we paddled through Palmer Rapids without even knowing we had done so. Unusual for late July, the water levels were high. There wasn't even a ripple on the surface to let us know we were going through any "rapids". The same could be said for La Dalle Rapids, a short distance downstream. 


We passed site 801 on river-left and before we knew it, we were heading east through the Cross Channel -- the part of the river that the five fingers dump into. Here, the river was wider than I'd expected it to be. 

Continuing east, we passed the island-dotted basin of the middle channel and stopped for lunch on a rocky point on the south side of an island. It was a lovely spot where we could jump into the water off the rocks, and due to its location in a narrow backchannel, we could avoid the possibility of getting hit by any motorboats. Because of the amazing scenery, this is a popular area with boaters coming up from Georgian Bay. 


After lunch, we came upon a pair of unfortunate boaters. The river widened into a small lake between the third and fourth fingers; however, just before this, we had to paddle up a small swift. As we came around a bend toward the swift, we spotted a couple of guys on the shore, laughing and cracking jokes. When we got to the swift, we saw what they were giggling about. A couple in a large pleasure craft were grounded on the rocks in the swift. Erin and I were the first up the swift to the left of the grounded boat. I moved alongside it and tried prying it loose from the high-water side with my paddle, but it was too large and heavy. Thinking it was just too big, we moved on after a couple of attempts. Shawn and Declan, who were the last of our group to get through the swift, lent them a hand and helped get them free. At the time, I made a mental note to ask Shawn if he had a cape and blue tights with a large "S" under his paddling clothing but forgot to do so. Maybe I "loosened" the grounded boat for him? At least that's my version of the story, and I'm sticking to it. I'm not sure what possessed these people to try to traverse a river rapid in a massive yacht-like boat, but they tried it anyway. It must have been a rental! I wish I'd remembered to take a photo of the incident. 


We continued east and passed both Crooked Rapids and Liley Chutes Rapids on our left. The two campsites adjacent to them were occupied. There were some nice jumping rocks in this area, but the shoreline was a bit too rugged to land our four canoes to access them. 


From there we had to decide whether we would continue east through the Cross Channel or take our chances with the wind out on Georgian Bay. We were above the channel containing Big Jameson Rapids and the wind didn't seem too bad, so we went for it. After all, we were looking forward to camping out on the bay. 


We ran through Big Jameson Rapids easily. It was nothing more than a 10' swift of gently moving water. After this, we were out on Bad River Bay and enjoying the sights consisting of treelined rocky points and islands, on which a few had some cottages with remarkable docks. 

We paddled southeast between some islands and across the mouth of the channel. Though the wind wasn't a major issue, it was up slightly and I didn't want to have a large group that had a few inexperienced paddlers out on big open water if it started howling. Therefore, we went through a channel on the leeward side of a large island and bypassed sites 728 and 726. They were both vacant, but we wanted to take advantage of the light wind and get closer to the mouth of the main channel if the wind would be up the following morning. 


Emerging from the channel and back on open water, we started heading in a northeast direction. The bay was wide open here and we could see the turbines of the wind farm far to the east across the mouth of the river. The wind began to pick up somewhat and as we arrived closer to shore, the bay got shallow and a bit choppy. We arrived at site 725 which was right on the bay on an exposed piece of barren rock. Next to it was a narrow channel (absent on the Unlostify map) that led to site 724, a much better site. The north side of the site was protected by a small grove of pines and had a fire pit and rocky "front" porch sloping down to the channel, while the south side of the site was a rocky ledge facing Georgian Bay, adjacent to site 725. There, we had the best of both worlds, protection from the winds and an open view of the bay. 


We set up our tents in the pine grove and settled down for a lovely evening of camping on Georgian Bay. 

When Shawn, Liam, Declan and I began to situate ourselves next to the fire pit to have a moment of relaxation, I heard my dad call out to us to check out a snake that had wandered into the site. 

While I was well aware of the fact that we were camping in Massasauga Rattler territory, I didn't mention it to anyone before that point, for fear of alarming my daughters in particular. They are a notoriously shy species (the snakes, not my daughters!) and I never thought we'd actually come across one. Well, it was too late for that, because that was exactly the snake that slithered into camp.  

The snake remained stationary next to a tent for a bit, sensing the number of people around it. Upon seeing the small rattle on the tail, I let everyone know what I thought it was. We backed away and gave it room and after a while, it eventually moved toward the river and out of sight. Had anyone been on the receiving end of a bite, it would have been the end of our trip.


It was at this point that we checked the area a little more thoroughly and noticed a large number of small holes in and amongst the pine tree roots in this little grove. It seemed like a prime spot for a nest of snakes. I reminded everyone to zip up their tents carefully and not to leave any open bags on the ground outside their tents. I also made a joke about being lucky that I was in a hammock while everyone else was sleeping on the ground. 

Well, as is often the case with karma, I should have kept my mouth shut, because the next morning while taking down my hammock, I nearly stepped on one. The snake was in a coil about 16 inches from my foot (I was wearing open-toed sandals!) It blended in with the undergrowth well. I didn't see it and I was keeping an eye out for them! I heard the rattle, which incidentally sounds more like a bunch of mosquitos buzzing rather than a rattle, and jumped back. Just as I did so, the snake lunged in the general direction of where my foot had been. Boy did I run out of there fast! I haven't moved that quickly since the 50-metre ParticipACTION event that I did in 1981. (The flexed arm hang was my event. It was the damned standing long jump that my short legs couldn't handle. It was the bane of my elementary school existence and continually stopped me from receiving an award of excellence...but I digress.) Luckily, for the rest of our time on this site, we had no other snake encounter. Be warned, though; site 724 does contain a number of this threatened species of rattlesnake. 

Despite the snake invasion, we had a wonderful evening. Dad, Maggie and I paddled into some of the back channels to do a little fishing for about an hour. We didn't get as much as a nibble, though we cracked up at Maggie's ability to tangle a fishing line. I laughed because I have been there, myself. It was Tanya's 17th birthday and I had been trying to keep a cheesecake in decent condition to celebrate. Well, let's just say that it may have not have looked the best at this point in the trip, but it was still chilled inside the cooler bag and it tasted fine. I hope Tanya appreciated the effort anyway.


After consuming the thing that approximated a cake, we continued our celebrations out on the rocks by the bay and watched the sun go down. The scenery and cheer out on Georgian Bay were great on this evening in late July. 

Day 3 - Georgian Bay to Pickerel River

We woke up to yet another beautiful sunny summer day. There was barely a ripple on Georgian Bay and we were anxious to get out and take a look at the mouth of the main channel. After breaking camp and a quick swim to clean off, we put in and were out on the water. 

Looking at the map, it appeared as if we could take a shortcut through a backchannel creek that would lead us to the end of the Cross Channel and out to Whitefish Bay. However, after a good 15 minutes of paddling, we hit a dead end. It was an area clogged with alder. I'm sure we could have bushwhacked through it to get to the Cross Channel, but with 8 people and some inexperienced trippers in tow, it just wasn't going to happen. Besides, with the conditions the way they were, we felt pretty safe heading back out onto the big water. 

So, we backtracked and found a passage leading us past site 723 and out into the bay. We could see the wind turbines in the distance to the east. The water remained amazingly calm. It was already 10:30 am and this giant body of water was like glass. It was an incredible paddling experience.   

We moved our way east, past Whitefish and Sand Bays, and worked our way through exposed rocks, dropping a fishing line to troll here and there. A couple of kayak trippers were out on the water with us. I hooked into something meaty at one point and lost it as it jumped. I didn't get a good look at it, but it was either a pike or a large smallmouth. Unfortunately, that was the most fishing action I would have on the entire trip! 


We made our way around the rocky point separating Sand Bay from the river mouth and began paddling north between a long narrow island and the shore. It was a really hot day and we were scouting out some good jumping rocks, but water in this channel was a bit too shallow. After another half hour of paddling, we were heading into the river and feeling a bit hot. Site 714 was vacant and we decided to stop for a swim and a snack. 

We started heading up the main channel. Our goal was to snag one of the sites near or above Dalles Rapids. There were 8 sites in total. One of them had to be vacant, right?


Shortly upriver from site 714, we passed the French River Village ruins on the right. I was trying to look for any remnants of the old settlement, but couldn't see anything. We had just stopped and we didn't feel like getting out of the boats again to investigate, so we pressed on. 


Not long after, we passed Camp McIntosh on the left bank. It looked lonely, sad and empty during this time of Covid lockdowns. 

We passed through a narrow channel as the river snaked to the right. There, it opened up into a bay and we went to check out site 712. It was bushy and small. We passed a young couple that was heading downstream who were going to investigate the same site. They told us that all of the other campsites above Dalles Rapids were occupied. Yikes. Site 712 definitely couldn't contain all of us, so we had no choice but to keep going. Besides, it was only 1 pm and we had the whole afternoon ahead of us. It was just really hot! 


We paddled up Little Dalles Rapids, which was just a bit of moving water, and spotted the portage to bypass Dalles on the right. We wanted to check out the sites and rapids from below though, so we veered left to take a peek. The campsites on the ridge to the right of the rapids were expectedly taken. They were prime sites by the look of them. The rapids looked like they could be a fun downstream run in the spring if the water was very high, but on the first day of August, they looked hungry to munch canoes. 

We went back to the take-out and began our only real portage of the trip. It was Maggie's first time to do a proper canoe portage and she was excited by the prospect. Inwardly, I laughed to myself and wondered if she would still harbour that excitement after a long trip in Algonquin or Temagami. We were lucky to have this 310m portage to ourselves since we had 4 boats and a lot of gear. All of the teens were great on the portage and everyone took their share of the load. I think Shawn's boys, Liam and Declan, might have been pack mules in a previous lifetime. 


By the time we had everything at the put-in, we had a good sweat going and the river blessed us with an awesomely steep face of granite from which we could jump into a deep pool. This was right at the take-out! We all took several attempts -- sorely needed on a hot day.

Also, at the take-out, immediately on our right, were the ruins of an alligator. It looked to be the boiler for the steam engine. The logging industry was massive on the French River from 1870 to 1920. The aforementioned village that we passed below Dalles Rapids had a population of 1000 people at one point. It's now a ghost town.  

After just a few minutes of paddling, we came upon the remainder of the alligator submerged on the right of the river.  

Continuing upriver, we were disappointed to learn what the couple had told us was true. Every site from Dalles Rapids to the intersection of the Main Channel, the Eastern Channel and Canoe Channel was occupied. Looking at the map, there were very few campsites from our location to Wanapitei Bay. It was Saturday of the civic holiday weekend at a time when backcountry camping was at its apex and I had a strong feeling that every campsite on Wanapitei Bay would be taken. So, it looked like our best chances would be to head for the Pickerel Bay area where the Pickerel River meets the French. So, we headed up Canoe Channel in search of a site. 


Shortly before 3 pm, we stopped for a quick bite to eat and a water bottle refill at a beach on the left just before Matterhorn Bay. From there, we paddled a good hour and a half east and then north through Canoe Channel. We passed a couple of nice private cottages moving east before the river veered north, and after that, we pretty much had the river to ourselves except for a pair of canoes that passed us when we were having our lunch on the beach. We laughed when we saw a fishing boat towing a canoe containing a solo paddler and his dog. We couldn't figure out why the solo paddler was wearing a covid mask at the time. Was he afraid of giving the dreaded virus to his dog?


Only site 642 existed on this channel and we all managed to pass right by it without seeing it. I wondered if the orange campsite sign had been removed for some reason. Site 629 was at the intersection of the channel and Ox Bay. Unfortunately, the pair of canoes ahead of us nabbed it. Site 628 was a quick 15-minute paddle to the west of that site and after a short jaunt there, we learned that it, too, was occupied. Sheesh! So, my original thought of heading east to Pickerel Bay was the reality, so we backtracked east. 


As we were following the southern shore through Ox Bay, we passed a group of canoe trippers resting on a beach. We waved. They were laughing but didn't wave back. Okay... Not long after that, when I looked behind me, they were paddling up behind us, three in a canoe, like crazed madmen with maniacal grins on their faces. Who were these dudes? Were they in the same situation as us, struggling to find a campsite? Being in the lead canoe, I asked Erin to turn it on. The race for a site was on! We beast-paddled through Ox Bay and made some distance on them. I could see from a distance that site 633 was taken, so I aimed for 632 to the north of the bay.  We were well ahead of the madmen, who started aiming for the south. Getting to 632, I was disappointed. It was a bad choice. Again, it was small, bushy and wouldn't contain our large group. So, I was forced to head south and try our luck with site 933, but now we were behind the madmen. 933 was also occupied! When we finally got to site 932, well into the Pickerel River, we were elated to discover it was vacant! The madmen had continued further upriver. For what reason they came up behind us so crazily, I will never know -- a combination of Beaver Fever and heat stroke, perhaps?


The site had a fantastic sloping front-porch rock with a firepit right on the river. The west view over the Pickerel River was amazing, but the site was lacking in cleared and flat tent pads. We would have to make do, however. It was after 7 pm and we had paddled 27kms in extreme heat that day. Everyone was tired, hungry and cranky. 


Once everyone set up their tents, (we had to pitch them right next to each other), which required a little land clearing (well done, Shawn and Declan!) and had our dinners, we all felt better. We were tired, but it was a good tired.

The canoe-tripping gods recognized our efforts by rewarding us with incredible views at sunset.

Day 4 - Pickerel River to Hartley Bay

Perhaps, we shouldn't have complained about the heat so much the previous day, because the weather on August 2nd was grim. 


We awoke to clouds and the threat of rain. We were able to get cell service at our site and the weather forecast was not looking good for the rest of the day. Knowing we were about to get wet, we all got up a little earlier and broke camp. It was a good thing too because it started raining as we were putting in. It's always a little more pleasant to not break camp while it's raining.  We were only a couple of hours from Hartley Bay Marina and debated whether or not to call our trip a day early based on the weather. Maggie was having a great time and was keen to stay another night, rain or no rain. She was loving her first backcountry trip. We had three decent tarps to protect us. In the end, we decided that if we found a good site, we would set up the tarps, just chillax and play cards. 

We paddled down the Pickerel River and into Ox Bay once again. This time we veered northwest, past the cottages and were aiming for Canoe Bay Channel as a shortcut to Wanapitei Bay. As we were rounding past site 633 (which looked to be an amazing site with superb views from a lofty, rocky plateau), Tanya and Liam grounded on a rock that was just below the surface. Tanya was enjoying the scenery and not doing her bow person's job of scouting the water for obstacles. In her defence, though it was close to a rocky island, it was out in the middle of the bay. The canoe managed to prop itself solidly on the rock with the bow raised high off the water. We all got a good laugh at Tanya's expense. She was up in the air, squealing for fear of falling in. Liam managed to find another rock to stand on and maneuver it free with Tanya still in the boat. The canoe escaped relatively unscathed, but it was a good reminder for everyone to remain vigilant while paddling. 


We stopped to fish a bit in Canoe Bay Channel and managed to get a couple of small bass hits. The rain was coming and going at this point, and once back out on Wanapitei Bay, we crossed the main expanse to investigate the sites on the west shore. Sites 610 and 611 were occupied. The beach site of 609 was vacant and not a bad site, but it was tucked back in the woods and with the dampness of the rain we were getting, the mosquitos were thick on it. Heading north, we learned that sites 608 and 607 were also taken. It certainly was indicative of a long weekend. 


So we backtracked across the bay yet again and started heading upriver back toward Hartley Bay. If no other sites were available, we would simply end the trip. As it turned out, site 600 was empty. It was tucked in a back bay and on a nice point opposite a couple of cottages on the north shore. It was only about a 30-minute paddle from our vehicles. We decided to stay.


We would spend a cold, wet and windy day and night. Though we had the protection of the tarps, the weather worsened considerably over the day. Despite this, everyone had a good time. After three long days of paddling and moving, it was great just hanging out the entire day, playing cards, snacking on the remainder of our food, napping in our warm sleeping bags and joking around. Liam and Declan kept everyone entertained. We never did get a fire going because everything was thoroughly soaked; but then again, no one gave an effort to try. No one even bothered to take any photos. We were just hanging out; it was nice.


By nightfall, the wind had picked up and the temperature dropped dramatically. It was amazing to think that the previous day we were facing a chance of heatstroke and in a little over 24 hours, the temperature was down to about 6 degrees. Little did we know at the time, but the entire province was under a weather warning. Parry Sound, just slightly to the south of us, recorded 40mm of rain that day. There were tornado warnings in the Muskoka's and actual tornados near Ottawa. Blissfully oblivious, we played cards and went to bed early. 


Day 5 - Hartley Bay to Hartley Bay Marina

It was still cloudy and cool the following morning, but at least the rain had stopped. We were only a short paddle from the marina, so we simply broke camp without making breakfast or coffee. We all agreed that the French River Trading Post and their fantastic burgers were calling us for an early lunch. We said goodbye to site 600 and got out on the water. 

The paddle back to Hartley Bay Marina was fast and uneventful. We retrieved our vehicles, loaded up and were heading back toward Highway 69 by 11 am. Sure enough, the Trading Post was open and accepting curbside orders. A burger and coffee next to a parking lot never tasted so good. 

The beauty of the French River Delta is unique, and coupled with the historical aspect, is a trip that should be revisited. I will paddle these waters again. Will I go again on a long weekend in peak summer paddling season during a pandemic that forces everyone to engage in outdoor activities? Most definitely not. 

Don't get me wrong, our group had a good time; however, our sense of enjoyment for the area was somewhat diminished due to the lack of maintained and available sites compared to the demand for them. The permits for this provincial park cost as much as other provincial parks that have a lot more maintenance and much better booking systems. I do understand that Parks Ontario generates nearly all of its revenue from user fees; however, I feel that it is a tall order to ask campers to pay the same prices as Algonquin or Kawartha Highlands and not have a guaranteed site booked at the end of the day. 

The MNR should consider implementing a booking system for this provincial park like that of others. It would let potential campers understand how busy the area would be, and thus limit the number of campers in an area at any given time. It would result in less of an environmental impact on campsites, not to mention reducing the possibility of injury or accidents that might occur when campers need to scramble, tired and hungry, looking for a viable place to set up camp after a long day of canoe tripping. Crown land camping is fantastic, just not in an area that has this many campers in peak season. It's a simple issue of supply and demand. To me, the current permit system smacks of a cash grab, plain and simple. 


And why does this area have so much demand? As they say, a picture says a thousand words. So, I'll end this trip report with the following thousand words...