13 of Ontario’s best paddling routes
Our paddling expert, Kevin Callan has covered a lot of water in Ontario. From the beginner routes he takes with his family to the more advanced routes he paddles with more experienced partners, Kevin has seen it all. Here is what Kevin likes—and doesn’t like—about 13 of his favourite Ontario paddling routes.
The Upper Ottawa River consists of a two-part route. Part One is Mattawa to Driftwood Provincial Park, and Part Two is Lake Temiskami to Mattawa. At five to eight days each, these routes can both be perfect family paddle trips. The Ottawa River is incredibly scenic along the Laurentian Mountain of Quebec and the Ontario bush and is surprisingly not a very busy area. If portaging is not your forté, there is only one portage in total.
Con: It’s hard to find a campsite because there are few paddlers on this river.
Temagami Wasaksina Lake Loop
The Temagami Wasakinsa Lake Loop is a perfect five-day family loop and Wasaksina Lake itself is great to just to spend a week on.
Con: There are some big lakes—including Lake Temagami.
Even though this route is close to Toronto, it is still a semi-wild area. It can be linked to two new parks/conservation reserves to the north: Island Lake and Nogonosh. This route makes for an amazing six-day loop.
Con: There are hunting camps and cottages spread throughout the route.
This route takes you down the Spanish River from Biscotasing and back up to Biscotasing by a series of lakes to the northwest. Kevin says: “This is one of the best solo trips I’ve ever been on—and you can take the train there and back!”
Con: In order to be truly enjoyable, there has to be good water levels.
Temagami’s Sturgeon River Loop
Because it combines the Chiniquichi area and Temagami’s Sturgeon River, this route is one of the best eight-day loops in Ontario’s near north.
Con: It was recently announced that Wolf Lake (about 1/4 way into the park area) will be managed, logged, and mined.
Killarney’s northwest end
This area is famous for being so beautiful, even Group of Seven did some paintings and sketches here.
Con: Portages are steep and it’s a longer drive for people coming from south Ontario.
The French River involves countless route possibilities and you feel a true sense of history while paddling the routes of the voyageurs.
Con: It can be rather busy with boats and cottages.
Little White River
North of Elliot Lake, this area is a “lost” canoe route Kevin Callan found. It’s a paradise that very few know about.
Con: The best way to get there is to fly in by bush plane, which can be expensive.
Algoma’s Ranger Lake Loop
An upriver trip that was extensively used in the 1930s and 40s, but is only used now recreationally. The difficult trip is an amazing true North adventure of traveling upriver—a rare thing to do.
Con: It’s upriver.
10-day loop north of Lake Superior that includes a portage called “Devil Portage” that’s literally up a cliff. On this route, you’ll find the rare blue-tinted walleye, scenic lakes, and no other paddlers.
Con: There’s one intense portage, and park staff does very little maintenance.
Wabakimi and Turtle River
These are two canoe trips that visit hermitages of the north—Wendall Beckwith’s cabins and Jimmy Mcouat’s castle.
Con: This route is quite remote.
This northern river has a series of amazing waterfalls and portages so steep that they need climbing gear. It ends at Lake Nipigon—an amazing lake that resembles Lake Superior.
Con: The portages are climbing gear-worthy.
Quetico’s Hunters Island
This 10-day loop circles the entire Quetico Provincial Park. According to Callan, “this is an ultimate trip that should be done by all canoe enthusiasts.”
Con: Prepare to be windbound a lot, as there are several big lakes.
Looking for more? Pick up Kevin’s book, Top 50 Canoe Routes of Ontario.