a VirtualTourist member from Johannesburg
In July 2008, we will be in Algonquin and would like to canoe. We are 2 adults, 2 children (12 and 10). Perhaps another family with the same make-up will join us. Forgive me if some of the questions have obvious answers or I am not using the correct jargon. I have surfed the internet quite abit for recommended routes but I am absolutely overwhelmed with the detail available, and finding it tough to sift through the volume of material. So some personal recommendations would really be welcome.
1. we will come from Toronto and move on to Quebec. Should we hire a car, use public transport (who?) or an outfitter?
2. Can you recommend a 3-day, 2 night canoe trail which would be suitable for canoe novices. We hike and camp frequently, know how to read a map. Some preferences:
a. not too many people
b. lots of wildlife
c. a mix of open water, river and canoe-able marsh.
d. portages should not be too hectic.
3. Should we hire a guide or do it on our own?
4. We will need to hire equipment - where?
5. What should we book in advance?
It sounds like you have been to the Parks web site.You should purchase a map now. A lot of the canoe trips are for serious campers so it can get confusing. Please note that July is mosquito time . You should make reservations . Anyway here is something that might work.Rent a car and drive up to Huntsville and stay overnight.There are plenty of outfitters in the area and it would be best to obtain your equipment from someone that knows what they are doing.Next day early enter the Park ( stop at entrance to pay fees, etc.) and then go to Canoe Lake . Start there and paddle to the NE corner of the lake about 3 km. to Portage P295 . A good portage to start with . This leads to an area that has nice isolated campsites a few more portages and enough for 2 nights camping and first timers . Remember to protect cameras and maps with water tight bags.
You should avoid going on the Canada Day long weekend (July 1), as it will be very packed with vacationers. Google Algonquin outfitters for more info. They have canoe and equipment rental and guided trips, and their offices are at the canoe launch sites.
I'm not sure if you can get to Algonquin Parks with public transport. If you have never done canoe trips before, I suggest you to go with a guide. Otherwise, you should go have a good map with canoe routes and portage routes. The interior camp sites are first come first serve. I've never done interior camping, but I think you'll need to register first and pay the appropriate fees before you head to the interior.
Thank GOD someone is doing what I always think a true tourist should see of canada our wilderness. Things that I recommend as Ihave done some canoing. Number one mosqito repelent is a must. Second hang all food from trees or secure it some sort of fashion as if you are not staying on a island racoons though cute to tourist are animals that will eat almost anything and they are not shy. Although a bit more money rent the lightest canoe possible. It will make iteasier as one person can successfully portage the canoe and if you have kids the others can take care of them. As per the destiantion tthe interior is the best and there are several take off points to leave from. It really doesn't matter from myexperience where is best but limit your portages to one or two find a island as I loved it myself ( plus less critters to bother you) if you can and stay for a few nights. You can paddle around the next day see what wilderness we have and can also do a portage here and there so you and the kids are not over whelmed. Another big thing is to email several outfitters and see what equipment you might want. You can see if there are clubs in the algonquin area that might advise you of wequipment too but I am unsure if they are out there. Bring a camera as this tome is the true beauty of canada you will hear wolves howl loons cry frogs deer it is amazing and the stars are breath taking . If you havce any other questions I can ask a few people the best places they been to and maybe send some more info.
By far, the easiest canoe route for beginners is... arggh... just went looking for my Algonquin Canoe route map and I can't find it. Anyway, I'll describe it and when you get a map you'll see what I mean. The first town out the east side of the park is Whitney. If you look on the map, you'll see a VERY open system of lakes and rivers running from Whitney into the park, roughly following the south side of Highway 60. This is EXCELLENT. First and foremost, there are NO portages other than a super-short 50 m jaunt. Secondly, this entire lake system is passes by numerous organized campgrounds and boat entrances. This may sound contrary to what you want (you mentioned seeing few people and lots of wildlife) but on the other hand, this will allow you to canoe for as long as you want. If, by day 3, you feel crapped-out, you can pull up into Pog Lake campground and use the phone for transportation. If you feel like you have a few days left in you, you can make it as far as Smoke Lake. Check the map and you'll see. It goes on and on and on. As for few people and lots of wildlife, the lakes along this route are substantial in size. You can follow the south shores of these lakes and you'll feel quite isolated. Lots of marshy areas, as you requested.
Alternatively, if you feel quite confident with the timeframe of your plans, you can END in Whitney instead. Have yourself dropped off at your preferred entry point (note that this doesn't have to be what the Park calls an entry point -- you can be dropped off anywhere) and canoe out to Whitney. The benefit here is that you can have you vehicle waiting for you in Whitney, making your pack-up and departure very convenient.
The other thing with this route is that emergency access is excellent. If you have any trouble and need to vacate the route, you have quick access to Highway 60 along the entire length.
Note that under ideal circumstances, you could canoe this route in 2 days. It is so open and easy. This gives you the benefit of slowing down, taking your time, and really drawing in the sites and sounds. You won't need to look at your map and say "Ok... enough pictures of this moose. Let's get moving or we won't make XXXX lake by nightfall." You can really take your time and leisurely enjoy things without worry.
You may want to contact Algonquin outfitters in Huntsville. I looked up the number for you 705-645-9262.
You do know that Algonquin is huge right? There may be guided trips available or maybe you can hook up with a local.
Thanks for your tips, and for the passion that you have shown in your posts! We have rented 2 canoes (plus other various paraphernalia) from Algonquin Outfitters. We will drive from Toronto and reach Algonquin hopefully by late morning. Then we will pick up our canoes, and put in on Rock Lake. We will canoe to Pen Lake (295m portage) and set up camp for 2 nights. We have decided to do this without a guide. Will report back after July...