The Knowledge Maverick’s guide to canoe trips in North America

An informal and informed guide to canoe trips, primarily in Canada and a tiny bit of the USA, compiled by Toronto canoeists.

The Ultimate Destination (but not necessarily visited)

  • Baron Canyon, Ontario, with its natural water slide
  • Nahinni River, North West Territories, Canada
  • About 3 strokes, after you leave any put-in point
  • Topaz Lake, Killarney, Ontario
  • Dumoine River, Quebec
  • Everglades, Florida, USA at Christmas

The Worst Destination

  • Stuck on rocks, wanting to kill my husband
  • Ooze Lake, Ontario- basically like porridge with used toothpicks thrown in!
  • Don River, Toronto
  • A shitty day of canoeing is better than a great day in the office!
  • Scarborough, Ontario (suburb of Toronto)
  • Day 3 on the Spanish River, Ontario: 8 hours of solid paddling
  • Tim River, Algonquin Park, Ontario: it winds and winds and winds …..
  • Canoe Lake, Ontario

Best Portage

  • 2500 meters in Algonquin Park, Ontario – because of a 70 year old man wearing only his red long johns
  • north end of Canoe Lake. It is listed as 230 metres but if you know the secret, it is only 40 metres
  • the shortest one
  • Spanish River: Judy naked in the river while old German men walked by – slowly.
  • no such thing
  • end of Canoe Lake, near dam

Worst Portage

  • The one with all the black flies (akin to midges)
  • Temagami, Ontario- rough portage back into the same lake!
  • West Coast trail (British Columbia, Canada) – 79 km
  • uphill to Topaz Lake, Ontario
  • Spanish River: Judy naked in the river while old German men walked by – slowly.
  • in North Kawartha’s (Ontario) – where I got lost with a canoe on my head on a very long portage and I had to retreat a long, long way

Best Campsite

  • Spanish River, on a big rock with steam rising above the water and rocks peaking to the skies
  • a Shangri-la four hours from Baron Canyon
  • Big Trout Lake in Algonquin Park
  • Welcome Lake
  • most isolated: some place in Algonquin Park surrounded by trees, facing an island
  • one with no bugs, no bears and plenty of beer
  • Stoplog Lake
  • Quetico

Worst Campsite

  • Junction of Yonge Street and Queen Street in downtown Toronto
  • Near other campsites
  • Three Narrows in Killarney, Ontario
  • one with bugs, bears and no beer
  • Wolfe Lake with bear fear
  • Everglades with alligator angst
  • Algonquin where we had deer mice

Best Time of the Year

  • August, no bugs
  • early September
  • late August
  • early spring before the bugs and fall (autumn) after the bugs
  • Late summer, end of July, fewer bugs and better weather
  • When there is high water and no rain
  • Christmas
  • Fall; no bugs, best colour

Worst Time of the Year

  • May 24th long weekend: cold and buggy
  • June: black flies
  • First week of June when the black flies have learned to chew
  • When there is low water and lots of rain
  • October: canoeing in the snow

Location of the best washrooms

  • the bush
  • downtown Toronto
  • Algonquin Park
  • Plaza Hotel, New York city
  • thick woods, behind big rocks
  • anywhere that poison ivy isn’t
  • at home
  • Frontenac

Advice on coping without facilities

  • Let it all hang out: wear spandex
  • Grocery bags: hold handles on each side of backside
  • Stoop, no scoop
  • Make sure you are with people you really like
  • Read the book: “How to shit in the woods”
  • Lose all inhibition. Work on your quads; you’ll need to squat
  • Lots of dry toilet paper
  • Make sure no-one’s looking
  • Doing dishes is easier

Best Outfitters

  • an expensive one
  • North West Outfitters, Round Lake
  • Anita: dab hand at re-hydrating food
  • Algonquin Outfitters
  • Mountain Equipment Coop
  • Trailhead

Worst Outfitters

  • Fairweathers
  • Wal-Mart
  • Europe-Bound: once you have made your purchase, the service ends
  • Richer’s Small Motors

Best Food

  • spaghetti
  • caviar on campfire-frilled sour dough bread
  • tomato and bocconcini salad with coarse bread, black olives and red wine
  • first night when you have fresh meat and veggies
  • Day 4 on the West Coast Trail: fresh crab and beer from a local store
  • anything hot
  • Fettuccine Alfredo – instant pre-packaged
  • Roast lamb suspended over the fire by a rope
  • Crackers, cheese and onions
  • Steak on a wood fire

Worst Food

  • granola
  • macaroni and cheese
  • peanut butter and sardine sandwiches
  • Big Bill Bowel Busting breakfast (the fast acting stuff)
  • pre-packaged ‘camping’ foods
  • breakfast and lunch on what the racoons have left over
  • multi-grain bread

I would not leave home without …..

  • beer, beer and more beer
  • tooth brush, for the morning after (Wow!)
  • toilet paper! Birch bark burns very well but makes an awful derriere wiper
  • Swiss army knife
  • extra socks
  • river shoes, dry bag
  • an air mattress
  • Thermarest
  • long underwear

My most memorable trip was ….

  • North Tea Lake: my first trip. 4 days of non-stop rain and 8 of us in an 8-man tent
  • where we almost went over the falls
  • in no particular order: Spanish River, Temagami, Tim River, French River, West Coast Trail (except for the long portage), Baron Canyon, Welcome Lake
  • Killarney, Ontario: my first trip. It was challenging and the views were gorgeous. Saw my first blue heron.
  • Spanish River where Judy said: “Eventually, I will have to kill him” and Rick’s corresponding feelings of joy, fear, surprise, fear, adventure, fear (i.e. Judy might succeed in killing him)
  • canoeing through the Everglades
  • Welcome Lake: we got engaged
  • where we young health males ran a portage at full speed after a long day, canoe overhead, packs on back to be told at the other end by 5 campers that we had unknowingly chased a bear through their campsite.

Most useful gadget

  • Swiss army knife
  • candle lantern
  • insulated pot warmer which keeps the pot warm, conserving fuel
  • head band sprayed liberally with Muskol/Deep Woods (mosquito repellent) to keep the black fly away, and placed strategically on the forehead, ears, and nape of the neck
  • Tie a rope between 2 trees: double back on the rope twisting it as you go and tie again to the first tree. Hang your clothes between the twisted ropes: no clothes pegs needed.