Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Algonquin Park ... Paddling up Barron Canyon River

Every summer we head off to Algonquin Park, about three hours north of us, for a week of camping.  My daughter had a meltdown one fall camping trip where she exclaimed "I HATE CAMPING!!" ... now that she's almost 20, she has opted out of these trips.  We tried over the years to make it enjoyable for her, but although she loves to swim in the lake, she's not crazy about the rest of it.  My son tells us he's never going to stop camping with us, and I'm glad he enjoys it as much as we do. 


So we packed up husband, me, boy, dog, bikes, canoe, kayak and trailer and headed off to the Great (white) North for a week's camping in the woods.  There are various ways to camp in Algonquin Park.  You can bring a tent or a trailer and camp in the campgrounds with showers and hydro (which is what we do).  Or you can drive to an access point, park the car, load up your canoe and paddle into "backcountry" where there are designated individual campsites dotting lakes and rivers that have a fire pit and a privy down a well-beaten path far away from the comforting glow of your nighttime fire. 

Canisbay Lake at the "pet beach" ... or "Cody's beach" as we like to call it.
Black bears are prevalent in the park, and I'll admit that this is my only worry if we were to back-country camp.  For the most part, bears only arrive in your campground when they are attracted by the smell of food.  You can usually scare them off with some yelling and waving of arms.  But there's always that ever so slight risk that a bear will attack you if you make a wrong move ... like if you run away from them, they then see you as the weaker mammal and give chase.  An even rarer instance is my favourite, the "predator" bear, which will purposely stalk and attack humans.  But the park authorities assure all campers that predator bears are very uncommon among black bears and not to worry.  We've had bears come through our campsite, and I've come face to face with a bear very early one morning when I cycled over to the showers  (he was tearing through some garbage that some lazy campers left outside the garbage bin), but the bears are honestly more interested in sneaking some food and making a quick get-away.   


There are 12 campgrounds within the park, but we always camp at Canisbay Lake (above 3 photos) campground, and take day trips all over the park.  A two-lane highway runs through the lower corridor of the park (from west to east gates, it's about 60 km) and you can access lots of lakes along that highway.  During our paddles around, we've often stopped at the canoe-in sites and we're sometimes disappointed by the amount of garbage people leave behind.  The rule is if you pack it in, you must pack it out, but we've found broken camp chairs, fishing rods, lanterns and just general garbage littering some of the sites.  It bugs me that people leave it all for someone else to clean up.   However, most of these sites are clean and have beautiful views of lakes and rocky shores that you just can't beat! 
 
My son kayaking on Canisbay Lake with Cody tucked in front of him.
We've never done "back-country camping" in the park, as we've become somewhat spoiled with a soft dry bed at night and relative safety from the violent thunderstorms that hit the north (ok, my second fear is a tree being struck by lightening and falling on your tent with you inside it!).  But after this trip, we've decided that next year we might just do it for one night over on the east side of the park.  The east side of the park is decidedly less-travelled.  We've been there before, and this year we drove over again with canoe and kayak to paddle down the Barron Canyon River.  It's about another three hour drive from Canisbay Lake to the east side and Achray Campground.  But it's a lovely drive through amazing northern countryside with lots of old log barns and houses mingled with quaint towns.  We drove through a portion of the Ottawa Valley, and were fairly close to Petawawa where there's a military base where my brother-in-law was stationed years ago. 

The Barron Canyon River is a nice width and meanders gently along where there are some very pretty canoe-in sites.  We passed beaver dams and marshes, and even saw one beaver on the way back to the truck.  


Shortly after starting along the river, we were forced to portage around some small rapids.  The portage was .5 km over some rough ground.  Our canoe is quite cumbersome to navigate through dense forest and up and over rocks, being 65 lbs. and 17 ft long .  We bought it years ago when Kevlar canoes were just coming into fashion.  Ours is a very stable canoe which has been perfect for two adults, two growing kids and an active dog.  Now that it's just my husband and I in the canoe,  we've got our eye on a nice Kevlar canoe that's only 15 ft and weighs 35 lbs.  We've always tried to avoid having to do long portages with our monster.

 
There was apparently a heavy storm in this area just prior to our camping trip, and there were a lot of large trees down.  Here you can see the trail has been cleared of a couple of fallen trees over the path.
 
 
I was left here to wait while my husband and son carried his kayak to the end of the portage.  Lots of people were leaving the park that day, and this portage was hopping shortly after I took these photos. 
 

We happily continued on our way up the river and enjoyed the beautiful scenery on either side of us.  The gentle hills gradually rising up higher and higher, and the turkey vultures soaring above us.


My son paddling up the river and our first glimpse of the cliffs ahead.

 
The small point on the right of the photo below is a canoe-in site.
 
 
The wind was actually quite strong that day, and it was hard going on the trip into the canyon.

 
Cody loves being with us, but he's a bit annoying in the canoe.  He usually tries standing up on the tiny tip of the canoe and whines and cries till you just want to toss him overboard ... and yes, I have done it ... oops!
 
Here is the main part of the canyon, which is really more like a deep gorge.  The rock cliffs are so colourful, and it was so quiet and serene down here on the river.
 


We passed only a few other canoes, but we were mostly alone here.


To give you an idea of how high the cliffs are, there is a man on the edge of this cliff that I zoomed in on ... he's taking a photo ...

 
And if you look closely, you can see him here in the regular shot ...

 
I know it's not the Grand Canyon, but it's still impressive to paddle along and look way up to see these rocky cliffs.  There's a trail along the top of the cliffs which we've walked along another time, but I enjoyed the view from below better, I just love the look of the cliffs.
 

 
It took us all day to drive to the canyon, paddle up and back down the river and then drive back to our campsite, but it was well worth it!  Next time we do it we're thinking of booking a campsite along the river for one night because it was fairly exhausting to do all that in one day.  If we stay overnight, we can go further up river and enjoy a waterfall where you can slide down a rocky chute!
 
And that's all for today folks!
 
I'll continue with more Algonquin pics another day ;)
 
Thanks for stopping by!
 
Wendy
 
PS...Cody loves to photo bomb ;)
 
 

43 comments:

  1. What a beautiful place to visit. My husband and I lived on the NY side of Lake Ontario for a number of years and went to Canada sometimes; we loved the area for the wilderness and scenery. I'm glad you had such a nice vacation and I'm glad to see you back and posting again. :)

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    1. You've had quite a change in your location! I love to go up north, and wish I lived there all year long. One week each year just isn't enough for me.

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  2. What a beautiful area! Your trip looks like a lot of fun. Too bad your daughter doesn't enjoy going. But, how great that your son does! And, your dog! That's frustrating and sad that other people can be so disrespectful and leave a mess. :-( I've been considering backpacking. It sounds so wonderful! But, I'm scared of the critters...like bears! lol Your canoe looks like fun. We had some kayaks but there just isn't much water where we live and we sold them a few months ago.

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    1. I bet you would enjoy backpacking with all that you do in your tours to national parks. I'll admit I enjoy the "luxury" part of camping in our little trailer. After a long busy day outdoors hiking etc., I like to head into my cozy trailer for the night (and it's a lot easier to deal with a rainy day in there than in a tent). I can't wait to get a new lighter canoe so we can go further afield ;)

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  3. What a great way to stay in shape! It is beautiful and I'd rather canoe there than in the grand canyon any day! It looks so serene. I'd be a bit afraid of bears too but you can have blow horns for bears. I went fishing way up in British Columbia years ago and no one was allowed to walk outside of camp without this noise maker. Freaky! Your dog is so cute photobombing.

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    1. Yeah, we're pretty timid to do any rafting etc., and I like a calm day for canoeing. BC has grizzly bears which are much more dangerous. My brother lives on Vancouver Is. and when we hike in the woods there I'm just a little on edge.

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  4. My goodness, what a super place to camp! I love camping too but haven't been strong enough this year to go, but we are putting the tent up in our garden, well we are if it will fit on the lawn, and will have tent sleepovers! I'm not too sure about the bears though, they would make me very nervous!!! :) x

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    1. We used to put the tent up at my parents' country home and invite our friends for sleepovers ... good times! I used to be quite nervous for my kids when we started camping in bear country, but now I'm quite comfortable with it, just when we're hiking on the trails I become more watchful.

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  5. WENDY! what an amazing place to be in! Oh my... your photos are just amazing! But bears, ummm... I'm not so sure I am would be with that! But it looks like ye had an amazing time :) Hazel x

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    1. Thanks Hazel, it really is a wonderful park, and it's HUGE! We never run out of things to do at Algonquin, I just wish we could stay the entire summer and get in all the hikes and canoe trips I want ;)

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  6. Absolutely amazing Wendy ... truly BIG country! Fabulous photographs, a real adventure holiday, can't believe your daughter no longer wants to join in ...

    Love how you are so blasé about coming face to face with a BEAR!!

    Thank you for sharing, I am speechless at the beauty of it all ...

    Down to earth with a bump ... Take care, my lovely

    Love Claire xx

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    1. Well thank you Claire :) I'm not sure why my daughter dislikes camping so much ... maybe we did too much of it when the kids were really small. Her first canoe ride (she was about 2) we stopped at an island and she refused to get back in the canoe ... I have a photo of her standing on a rocky hill screaming her little face red! poor thing! We didn't even make her paddle! Oh well. The bear encounters we've had have all been in our campground, never in the wilds, and I'm happy to keep it that way. But they really are more interested in the food, and I hate when people go off to the beach and leave all sorts of remnants of lunch littering their picnic tables. I'm glad you enjoyed the photos, and I'll be posting more when I have a minute ... have a great weekend! xx

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  7. Wendy, this was so amazing!!You are so lucky to live where, what I love to call..."God's Country " Absolute Gorgeous!. I must say, you are a very brave woman to camp knowing that there are possibilities of bears...I would differently sleep with one eye open. And....poor Cody(I laughed a little)I hope it broke him of his annoying habit! Overall, it sure sounds like you all had a very very nice vacation. I was truly amazed to see how big the canyon was. Never would have spotted that man if you didn't point him out.
    All you photos are just amazing. I'm off to go look again one more time!
    Hugs, Shari

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    1. Thanks Shari, such nice comments ;) The canyon was such a joy to see from the river, and I loved just slowly paddling along and looking at those cliffs ... makes you feel quite small and insignificant! Cody has a blast camping and is usually so well behaved. But his whining in the canoe starts when we are close to shore and he thinks we're getting out ... he just can't keep in his excitement then because he'd much rather be running along the wooded tracks. Enjoy your weekend Shari :)

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  8. Oh wow, such a beautiful place! I'll gladly take your daughters place :) We are trying hard to find a holiday destination here in the UK at the moment for next month, having seen this I might opt for a lake....but then I'd like to see the sea.....so many places I'd like to visit. Thank you for your lovely and breathtakingly beautiful tour though. x

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    1. If I lived in the UK I'd be hard pressed to find ONLY one place to visit! All those historical spots would be my choice. Here in Canada, we're limited in our historical buildings, but you can't beat the scenery ;) I just love being north in the woods, and never want to come home.

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  9. Loved the scenery and views from your camera Wendy. I'm more like your daughter and would rather look at the pictures than be there roughing it. :-) I think our daughter told me a phrase I might like to try "glamping", glamorous camping in a motor home, well yes, that would work for me.
    Thanks for sharing our beautiful northland.
    Judith

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    1. I guess that's what we do ... "glamping" ... although our trailer isn't one of those monstrously large motor homes, just big enough to sleep four comfortably (with a TV for rainy day movies!!). I can't get enough of the hiking and canoeing. There's even a great bike trail that they've extended to a full 18 km along a disused railway track (very easy). Have a great weekend Judith ;)

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  10. What an amazing place ... stunning ... Canada is very beautiful ... Bee xx

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    1. Thanks Bee! I'm glad you enjoyed the photos :)

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  11. Wow, you were literally 45 minutes from our house. I've been to the Canyon a couple times (from the top).

    Paula

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    1. Yes, I was thinking how close we must be when we drove through your area! I even had my eye out for your farm's name on a sign, but no luck ;) I've been to the top too, but was disappointed at the very short walk to the edge. It gave me tingles in my hands and feet to be so close to the edge of the drop! Much preferred the river. Have you been to High Falls further up the river? That's where we plan on getting to next time.

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    2. We've only gone canoeing along our river (Snake River). My uncles though have been to High Falls. Like your daughter I'm not a camping kind of girl. I like the 'idea' of camping, but then there's all the bugs and stuff :)

      We're just off Hwy 17. Just before you get to Cobden. We have a sign at the highway, so if you are ever over this way we're easy to find.

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    3. Well you live in a beautiful area ... we've gone through the Bonnechere Caves near you a couple of years ago (so cool!). I don't like the bugs either, but will suffer through a few mosquito bites ... however, we've sworn off early summer camping when the blackflies and mosquitoes are at their peak (that took a few years' bad experiences to finally give it up!).

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  12. That is so incredibly beautiful! Gorgeous pics. We haven't gone camping this year. We never book the site in time. I admit I am also afraid of bears...and lightning hitting the trees/trees falling on the tent. On our last camping trip, my daughter and I slept in the car when the storm started. Not comfortable! I want a trailer!

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    1. I hate the booking part ... we have to book our sites in February! Friends of ours had a tree fall on their trailer during a storm and spear it like a marshmallow on a stick! Luckily they weren't in it at the time. I'd be in the car too if we camped in a tent ... we've had some wicked storms up there. Fold-down trailers are all the rage again ... inexpensive and you can pull them with a van!nnSo I'll see you up there next year Jo ;)

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  13. For a split second Wendy I thought Cody was your son and had to laugh when I realised it's the dog!!
    Beautiful photos.... as I read your post, the TV is on and there's a doco on Canada's Rivers, this is a stunning country. You are so lucky to be able to get out and enjoy where you live.

    Claire x

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    1. Too funny! There were times when my son was a little guy and he would cry and scream in the front of the canoe (Cody's spot now), and I was sorely tempted to toss that screaming child out too ... never did. He would then fall asleep in front of me and just melt my heart with that cute picture of him snug in blankets, rocked by the waves :) I do count my blessings that we are able to visit these beautiful places.

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  14. Wendy!!! Is is such a beautiful beautiful place!!! The bears would worry me though like you said they are just looking for food! I can not believe you came face to face with a bear!!!! I love camping as well and this would just be a dream! Being on the canoe looking up at those cliffs and just taking it all in! I love that your son loves it as much as you both do! Stunning!!!

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    1. It's a wonderful place to visit, and I never come back without wishing I lived there year round. My husband has an aversion to hard winters, however, so I'm sure we'll never get the chance :( The river trip was a big highlight again for us this year, but we really have to camp in that part of the park to enjoy it for longer.

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  15. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful part of the world with us. It is stunning there is nothing like this over here in the UK. My only experience of bears stealing food is that smarter than the average bear Yogi. What a wonderful time you had ~ Sarah x

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    1. I was very happy to share this with everyone Sarah, I'm glad you enjoyed it :) I used to love that Yogi bear and his pic-i-nic basket too! A couple of years ago our camping neighbour came running over to us in terror because a black bear had just walked up behind her as she sat in her camping chair and sniffed her ear! She thought it was her big dog until she suddenly remembered her dog was with her husband and kids at the beach!! We were all laughing (probably more from nerves than hilarity), and we watched as the park ranger scared him off with paint-ball guns (he was a pretty poor shot, and I think my son could've hit that target better what with all the gaming he does).

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  16. So beautiful and relaxing to read while I let you do all the work! The scale of the cliffs and valleys was so cleverly shown. Thank goodness you didn't come across any bears! xx

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    1. This kind of 'work' I'd gladly do all summer ;)

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  17. I really enjoyed this post Wendy. Thanks so much for sharing your gorgeous pictures with us!
    Happy weekend!
    Sarah xo

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    1. Thanks Sarah, I'm glad you enjoyed the pics!

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  18. I absolutely hate camping but I think even I could be tempted by a trip as beautiful as this... even with bears!

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    1. The only part I hate about camping is using public washrooms & showers and when you start running out of clean clothes (there is a laundry machine there, but I've never used it). No bears this trip!

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  19. Wow, what an amazing place, so beautiful and serene! You are so lucky to have such a wonderful place to go camping! Thanks for sharing your photos :)

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    1. It's my favourite place to camp :) I'm glad you enjoyed the pics Hilde!

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  20. What a spectacular place! I'm not much of a camper these days, but I could be tempted by somewhere like this.

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  21. What a beautiful spot! I have to say though, I'm not much of a camper either.

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